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Mexican kingpin extradited to United States

By the CNN Wire Staff
Benjamin Arrellano Felix was convicted of running a drug cartel with his brothers.
Benjamin Arrellano Felix was convicted of running a drug cartel with his brothers.
  • Benjamin Arellano Felix is wanted in the United States
  • He was a leader of the Tijuana cartel

(CNN) -- Drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix, one of the leaders of the major Tijuana cartel, was extradited to the United States on Friday, Mexico's attorney general's office said.

Arellano Felix was one of seven brothers who ran the cartel until he and the majority of the leadership was arrested. The Tijuana cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization, was weakened as a result, but is still considered one of Mexico's major drug trafficking operations.

He had been convicted of organized crime activities in Mexico and was serving several sentences in prison.

He is wanted in the United States on two indictments for conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, operating a drug smuggling organization, and murder.

The Tijuana cartel, during its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs into the United States through Tijuana and Mexicali, the Mexican attorney general's office said.

One of the strategies that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has employed in his fight against the drug cartels has been sending traffickers to face justice in the United States. In Mexico, even convicted traffickers have been known to communicate freely and control their organizations from inside prison. Being tried in the United States is thought to be a deterrent.

In addition to trafficking drugs, the cartel under Arellano Felix's leadership ran a network of bribes, spies and killings, the attorney general's office said.

He was considered the brains and accountant for the organization, the agency said.

Arellano Felix was arrested in 2002 in the city of Puebla. Extradition processes against him began in 2007.

The handover to U.S. marshals happened Friday at a hangar at the international airport in the city of Toluca, Mexico.