SAN DIEGO (CNS) - One of four brothers who ran Tijuana's notorious Arellano Felix drug cartel for nearly two decades was sentenced Monday in San Diego to 15 years in federal prison.
Eduardo Arellano Felix pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to launder money and invest illicit drug proceeds and agreed to forfeit up to $50 million in money and other assets obtained through illegal drug trafficking. Defense attorney Brian Funk said, however, that Arellano Felix has no assets.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns told the 56-year-old defendant that the AFO's drug trafficking operation and its penchant for violence greatly affected the border community and the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
"They were terrible effects ... long-lasting effects," the judge said. "And for that, you should be ashamed."
Arellano Felix was extradited from Mexico to the United States last September.
The defendant and members of the AFO -- led by his brother, Benjamin -- agreed to import hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trafficking operation, according to his plea agreement.
Arellano Felix -- a physician nicknamed "El Doctor" -- admitted the drug profits were used to acquire weapons and bribe public officials.
The defendant, described as a "senior adviser" to Benjamin, was arrested in Tijuana in October 2008 following a gun battle with a Mexican Special Tactical Team.
Ramon Arellano Felix, the AFO's enforcer at the time, was killed in a shootout in Mexico in 2002.
Authorities said the AFO controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States. The cartel terrorized the Southwest border and beyond with executions, torture, beheadings and kidnappings, prosecutors said.
Benjamin Arellano Felix and Francisco Javier Arellano Felix are currently serving sentences in the United States, where they were convicted of racketeering, drug trafficking and money laundering.
"The three living Arellano Felix brothers, who for decades lived as multimillionaires while terrorizing the Southwest border, ordering assassinations and corrupting countless public officials, are now confined to maximum-security prison cells for a very long time," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "I urge others who aspire to take their place to take note."
William Sherman, special agent-in-charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego, said the sentencing of Eduardo Arellano Felix "marks the end of an era in cartel history."
"The AFO is finished, others have moved in and are attempting to take their place," Sherman said. "Our warning to those who emulate the members of that once powerful cartel -- take a good look at your future."
Burns granted a defense request to recommend to prison officials that Eduardo Arellano Felix be housed in Florida with Benjamin.