SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A high-ranking member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel who acted as an intermediary between the AFO and Colombian cocaine traffickers supplying drugs to the Mexican drug organization pleaded guilty Thursday to federal racketeering charges.
Rigoberto Yanez-Guerrero, who was extradited from Mexico to the United States last December, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 3 by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.
In a hearing Thursday before Magistrate Barbara Major, Yanez admitted that between 1995 and his arrest in March 2001, he worked for a top AFO lieutenant, serving as a point of contact with Colombian cocaine traffickers wishing to do business with the Mexican drug cartel.
Yanez, 42, also admitted that he helped with the importation and distribution of "many tons" of cocaine into the United States from Baja California. The defendant admitted that he personally participated in the shipment of 5-to-10 tons of cocaine.
As part of his plea, the defendant also agreed to forfeit up to $1 million in proceeds from the criminal enterprise.
Yanez told Major that he participated in the drug conspiracy "indirectly" and didn't have any money or profits from the operation.
The defendant admitted that the AFO obstructed the investigation into its illegal activities by bribing law enforcement and military personnel.
He pleaded guilty to conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.
Long reputed to be one of the most notorious multi-national drug trafficking organizations, the AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States. Its operations also extended into southern Mexico and Colombia.
According to authorities, the Arellano Felix cartel -- run by four brothers, Benjamin, Eduardo, Javier and Ramon -- monopolized routes for illegal drugs through Tijuana to the United States for more than 20 years.
Ramon Arellano Felix, the organization's top enforcer, was killed in a shootout in Mexico in 2002. Javier Arellano Felix, captured in 2006, is serving a life sentence in the United States. Eduardo Arellano Felix was captured in 2008 after a shootout in Tijuana and U.S. authorities are still seeking his extradition.
Benjamin Arellano Felix, once considered the financial operator of the AFO, was extradited to San Diego recently after spending nine years in a Mexican prison.
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