A dozen new indictments against Mexican cartels

August 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mexican drug cartels have spread to "our own backyards," Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday as he announced a dozen new indictments aimed at capturing suspected kingpins so they can stand trial in U.S. courts. The indictments of 10 alleged bosses of the cartels and 33 other suspects expand previous U.S. efforts to decapitate the cartels' senior leadership.

First, though, they must be caught. The accused cartel leaders indicted Thursday are wanted in Mexico, and some have been sought by Mexican and U.S. law enforcement for many years. Prosecutors say that the rings generated nearly $6 billion in drug profits.

"The criminal conduct alleged in these indictments did not take place solely in Mexico. Rather, it played right out here in our own backyards," said Holder.

The attorney general said he expects the cartel leaders will eventually "be here in the United States and they will face justice," adding that the indictments are not symbolic acts but a sign the U.S. government is aggressively hunting the cartels.

The flurry of indictments unsealed in Chicago and New York depict sprawling distribution networks stretching back nearly two decades, based on investigations by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Three suspects -- Joaquin "el Chapo" Guzman-Loera, Ismael "el Mayo" Zambada-Garcia and Arburo Beltran-Leyva -- are accused of being the past and present heads of the organized crime syndicate called the Sinaloa cartel, or the Federation.

The three allegedly oversaw the shipment of nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine and large amounts of heroin into the United States.

Eight suspects were arrested in Chicago and Atlanta earlier this week. Earlier this year, another 10 suspects, all accused customers or couriers of the ring, were charged in Chicago.

Authorities charge the cartels moved cocaine and heroin to Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Washington, Vancouver, British Columbia, and beyond. The indictments grew out of a street gang investigation in Chicago and drug-related killings in New York.

Drug violence has claimed more than 11,000 lives in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and launched a major offensive against cartels, which responded with unprecedented violence.

Many of the killings are the result of battles between rival drug smugglers for lucrative routes into the United States.

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