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Former Mexican kingpin is sentenced to 25 years in U.S. prison

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Mon April 2, 2012
Benjamin Arrellano Felix is shown in this undated photo supplied by Mexican authorities in 2002.
Benjamin Arrellano Felix is shown in this undated photo supplied by Mexican authorities in 2002.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Benjamin Arellano Felix also is ordered to forfeit $100 million
  • He pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy to launder money
  • Arellano Felix is the former leader of the Tijuana drug cartel
  • His lawyer says the sentencing is a disappointment

(CNN) -- A former leader of Mexico's Tijuana drug cartel was sentenced Monday in the United States to 25 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $100 million after pleading guilty to racketeering and conspiracy to launder money, officials said.

Benjamin Arellano Felix pleaded guilty to the charges in January in U.S. federal court in San Diego.

"Today's sentencing marks the end of Mr. Arellano-Felix's reign as the leader of one of the most dangerous drug and organized crime organizations our agencies have ever investigated," San Diego FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Eric Birnbaum said in a statement.

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Arellano Felix was one of seven brothers who ran the cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization, until he and the majority of the leadership were arrested.

During its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, the cartel controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs into the United States through Tijuana and Mexicali.

"I was disappointed," Nicholas De Pento, an attorney representing Arellano Felix, said about Monday's sentencing. "We have to look at our options, but the plea agreement that I took over has a waiver of appeal ... my hands are sort of tied."

De Pento said he was brought into the case less than two weeks ago.

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

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

Arellano Felix has been convicted of organized crime activities in Mexico and served nine years there before being brought to the United States last year.

He was arrested in 2002 in the state of Puebla. Extradition processes against him began in 2007.

"Today's prison sentence virtually ensures that Arellano-Felix will spend the remainder of his life in custody. Following this sentence, he will be deported to Mexico to finish a 22-year sentence. This is a fitting end for a person who has caused so much suffering and destruction," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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