When accused drug kingpin Francisco Javier Arellano Felix began planning a deep-sea fishing trip more than a year ago, US drug agents also got ready – to catch their prey.
US authorities announced yesterday that Arellano Felix had been captured by the US Coast Guard early on Monday off the coast of La Paz, Mexico, aboard the US-registered sport boat Dock Holiday.
Arellano Felix was expected to be formally arrested today.
“We’ve taken the head off the snake,” Michael Braun, chief of operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, said at a news conference in Washington.
He was among 11 individuals charged in 2003 with 10 counts of conspiracy and racketeering. He allegedly conspired to assassinate Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo in 1993 at the airport in Guadalajara, US officials said.
The indictment alleges Arellano Felix (aged 36), and others moved tons of Colombian cocaine and Mexican marijuana to the United States along the California-Mexico border. The Arellano Felix gang is believed to be responsible for the massive drug tunnels discovered last January.
They are also accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing rivals and bribing Mexican officials. The indictment links Arellano Felix to a 1996 killing in Coronado, California, near San Diego, and a 1992 shootout at a disco in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The Arellano Felix gang emerged as a drug powerhouse in the 1980s in Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego. It recently ceded control of Mexicali, an important drug corridor about 120 miles east of Tijuana, said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who worked on the 2003 indictment.
Kirby said Arellano Felix led the Tijuana clan almost by default in 2002 when the gang lost two of his older brothers: Benjamin was jailed and Ramon was killed.
Federal drug agents began preparing for the latest operation 14 months ago after learning that Arellano Felix was planning to go fishing. The agents enlisted the Coast Guard’s help and were helped throughout by Mexican law enforcement officers.