SAN DIEGO (AP) — An alleged drug trafficker was extradited from Mexico on Thursday to face charges in San Diego that he oversaw efforts to bring methamphetamine to the U.S., authorities said.
Cesar Alfredo Meza Garcia, 36, is one of the first people to be extradited from Mexico since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office Dec. 1.
Pena Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, embraced extraditions as he launched an offensive against drug cartels that shaped his presidency. His administration said it extradited 502 people from Dec. 1, 2006, to the end of 2011, including 478 to the United States.
"We're hoping (Pena Nieto) will continue what President Calderon started," said Tim Durst, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit in San Diego. "It's wait-and-see. This is a good sign."
U.S. authorities seized more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine and 100 pounds of cocaine during a 20-month investigation that ended in May, ICE said. The drugs were mostly hidden in cars and trucks and strapped to bodies at San Diego border crossings.
The investigation began when authorities stopped a car with 48 pounds of methamphetamine that crossed the border in San Diego and was headed to Los Angeles, Durst said.
U.S. authorities described Meza Garcia as a top figure in the Tijuana cartel, made of the remnants of the once-powerful Arellano Felix family. Secretly recorded phone conversations featured repeated references to "The Engineer," as cartel leader Fernando Sanchez Arellano is known.
Meza Garcia was arrested by Mexican authorities in Tijuana in September and is the highest-ranking target in an investigation that has led to federal charges against nearly three dozen people in San Diego. So far, 21 have been sentenced to prison.
The extradition comes amid a spike in methamphetamine seizures at U.S. border crossings. In California, border inspectors confiscated 9,735 pounds of the drug during the 2012 fiscal year, up 33 percent from a year earlier and nearly five times the amount seized in 2008.
Meza Garcia was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday on a charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
A charity run, meals for the needy, a long-running music festival and -- shhh! -- holiday shopping were on tap for Thanksgiving Day in San Diego.
The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County was at its highest amount on Thanksgiving since 2013 Thursday, despite dropping for 10 consecutive days.
The California Highway Patrol arrested 15 in San Diego County on suspicion of drunken driving, during the first night of its annual Thanksgiving "maximum enforcement period."
The always-heated topic of whether to begin holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day will be raised again Thursday, as many chain stores will open their doors around San Diego one day before the so-called "Black Friday."
A charity run, meals for the needy, a long-running music festival and holiday shopping are on tap for Thursday's Thanksgiving Day in San Diego.
Your living room often becomes your work space if you work from home. If you have kids, the house can be even more chaotic. Well now, more women are able to take 10-15 steps out of their home and into their "she shed."
Around 60,000 passengers are expected to pass through San Diego's Lindbergh Field daily during the upcoming holiday weekend.