Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.
Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.

Story highlights

Rafael Caro Quintero, a former cartel leader, is accused of killing a DEA agent

A Mexican judge overturned his conviction in a surprise ruling in August

The U.S. State Department is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture

DEA administrator: Caro Quintero's release "was shocking and disturbing"

Read this article in Spanish at CNNMexico.com

CNN —  

Months after a surprise ruling from a Mexican judge made him a free man, U.S. authorities have placed a new bounty for the capture of accused Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.

The U.S. State Department says it will pay up to $5 million for information leading to Caro Quintero’s arrest or conviction.

Caro Quintero, 61, once leader of Mexico’s now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel, is accused in the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and his pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar.

He’d served 28 years of a 40-year sentence for the killings when a judge in Mexico’s Jalisco state overturned his conviction in August.

“Caro Quintero was the organizer and mastermind of this atrocious act, and his unexpected release from a Mexican prison was shocking and disturbing to law enforcement professionals on both sides of the border,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement Tuesday. She said the U.S. government “will utilize every tool available, including the State Department Narcotics Rewards Program, to bring Caro Quintero to justice.”

After a meeting in Washington in September, Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam promised that authorities in his country would reapprehend Caro Quintero.

But there’s been no word on the accused drug lord’s whereabouts since then.

The Drug Enforcement Administration described Caro Quintero as fugitive from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on felony murder and kidnapping charges, in addition to other criminal charges.

On August 9, a Mexican federal court overturned Caro Quintero’s conviction, ruling that he had been incorrectly tried in the country’s federal judicial system, when he should have been tried at the state level.

The slayings decades ago profoundly damaged U.S.-Mexico relations and remained a sore spot in the drug war. And the drug lord’s release in August infuriated U.S. officials once again.

The U.S. Justice Department said freeing Caro Quintero was “deeply troubling” and it would “vigorously continue its efforts to ensure” that he faces charges for his crimes.

CNN’s Mariano Castillo, Rafael Romo and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.