SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nearly a year after a top drug cartel lieutenant was arrested in Mexico, the U.S.-born man is back on American soil to face federal racketeering and drug charges, according to federal prosecutors.
Armando Villareal Heredia is the lead defendant in a 43-defendant prosecution against the Fernando Sanchez-Arellano Organization, a drug cartel, and was in the custody of American officials, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy announced Wednesday.
He was extradited from Mexico Wednesday and is expected to face a hearing in federal court Thursday.
Also known as Gordo Villareal, the top cartel lieutenant was arrested by Mexican law enforcement July 9, 2011, in the northern city of Hermosillo, at the request of U.S. officials.
Mexican and U.S. authorities say Villareal takes orders directly from Fernando Sanchez Arellano, also known as "The Engineer," a drug kingpin who is the leader of a younger but weaker Tijuana cartel.
U.S. officials say Sanchez's criminal organization is an offshoot of the defunct Arellano Felix cartel, whose domination of Tijuana was fictionally portrayed in the Hollywood movie "Traffic."
Sanchez, who is in his 30s, is a nephew of the four Arellano Felix brothers who have been either killed or arrested since 2006.
To date, 38 defendants have pleaded guilty in the current case, admitting to murders, kidnappings, robberies, assaults, money launder and drug trafficking.
Four defendants are fugitives and another is due for trial June 5.
This is a story update. A previous story is below.
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - One of the top lieutenants of the Fernando Sanchez-Arellano Organization, which is believed responsible for murders, abductions and a wide range of drug-trafficking offenses, was expected to be arraigned in San Diego federal court Thursday after his extradition from Mexico to face federal drug and racketeering charges.
Armando Villareal Heredia, aka Gordo Villareal, is the lead defendant in a 43-defendant racketeering prosecution against the FSO, according to court documents.
Villareal, 33, was arrested by Mexican law enforcement officers last July 9 at the request of the United States and remained in custody in Mexico until his extradition.
According to an indictment, Villareal was one of the top leaders of the FSO, which evolved from the now-defunct Arellano-Felix Organization.
Several dogs are in the custody of San Diego County, after a Lomita woman reported that her six dogs were attacked and some killed by a group of pit bulls.
Thousands of people marched through downtown San Diego and San Marcos in the second annual Women's March Saturday. The San Diego event began at 10 a.m. at the downtown Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway, while the North County event began at 11 a.m. at Palomar College.
Thousands of people marched through downtown San Diego and San Marcos in the second annual Women's March Saturday. The San Diego event began at 10 a.m. at the downtown Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway, while the North County event began at 11 a.m. at Palomar College. The two marches were held in conjunction with other marches across the country.
The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, which prompted the closure of many federal operations, such as national parks and monuments and that included the shutdown of Cabrillo National Monument.
Chilly temperatures and scattered showers started the weekend. Temperatures at the coast and inland communities hovered around 60 degrees with some areas of San Diego County receiving rain during the morning hours.
A transient accused of fatally stabbing a man after they got into an argument near a 7-Eleven store in Poway pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge.
Coastal rail closures could complicate the commute for the thousands of people expected at Women's Marches set for downtown San Diego and San Marcos Saturday, though additional transit options are being made available.
A man arrested in the doctor's lounge at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa after claiming to be an anesthesiologist pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony charge of treating the sick without a certificate.
People who bought new homes in Otay Ranch's Village of Escaya can start moving in Friday - later than planned but after the developer took steps to address methane found at the site.
Recent assaults by tactical teams on prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico found their imposing heights should stop border crossers, The Associated Press has learned, a finding that’s likely to please security hawks but raise concerns about costs and environmental damage.