Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero, 46, who entered a guilty plea Friday in regard to charges against him in Colorado and Arizona, isn't just any drug peddler. As one of the reputed leaders of Mexico's Sonora cartel, he became the stuff of legend -- and given that he's now admitted to trafficking over 100 tons of marijuana valued at more than $100 million during the second half of the '80s, the tales don't appear to have been exaggerated much.
In spite of the tremendous heat put on the group's founder, Rafael Caro Quintero, after the 1985 murder of DEA agent Enrique Camerena, it was business as usual under the direction of Miguel Angel Caro Quintero. A dozen years younger than his brother [Rafael], Miguel was one of three remaining brothers of El Grenas appointed to oversee the continued operation of the Sonora Cartel. Miguel soon established dominance over his brothers Jorge and Genaro and rose to the pinnacle of the group's operations.
Miguel managed to restore the cartel's web of protection through a renewing of the political payments, which led to the rise of the gang as a major exporter of Sinsemilla in the early 80s. Miguel demonstrated his importance in 1992 when through a series of bribes coupled with tactics of intimidation, Miguel had an investigation into the Sonora Cartel stopped. This caught the attention of the U.S. government, who quickly indicted him on charges of trafficking illegal drugs. The state department offered a reward of $2,000,000 for any information leading to his arrest and conviction. Like his brother, Miguel was captured on December 20, 2001 due to the intense pressure put on the Mexican government by the U.S. government.
Some of the particulars of the graphs above don't jibe with the release put out by the U.S. Attorney's Office following Caro-Quintero's plea. But the government account is plenty vivid, too. Read it below:
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MIGUEL ANGEL CARO-QUINTERO PLEADS GUILTY TO TRAFFICKING MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF MARIJUANA FROM MEXICO TO THE UNITED STATES
DENVER -- Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero, age 46, a resident and national of the Republic of Mexico and a reputed member of the Sonora Cartel, pled guilty today to charges of marijuana trafficking, United States Attorney David Gaouette and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin announced. The guilty pleas were tendered before U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer. The plea agreement resolves indictments from the District of Arizona and the District of Colorado. Caro-Quintero, who appeared at the hearing in custody, is scheduled to be sentence for his criminal conduct on February 4, 2010. The defendant admitted to trafficking more than 100 tons of marijuana from 1985 through 1988, resulting in more than $100,000,000 in payment being sent to Mexico.
Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver in 1990. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona in 1994. He was arrested in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, in December 2001. He was then extradited to the United States on February 25, 2009. Prior to his extradition, Caro-Quintero was held in custody pending extradition, and served a prison sentence in Mexico for weapons possession crimes. The defendant and his older brother, Rafael Caro-Quintero, were identified as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under The Kingpin Act in June 2000, subjecting them and their associates to economic sanctions. Rafael Caro-Quintero was accused of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, and was prosecuted by the Mexican government. Rafael Caro-Quintero was convicted in Mexico and is serving a 40 year prison sentence for the murder of the DEA Special Agent.
According to the stipulated facts admitted at the change of plea hearing in the District of Colorado case, beginning in 1985, Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero and others knowingly engaged in a series of racketeering acts constituting in a sustained and persistent pattern of activity in which:
• Tons of marijuana were grown or acquired in Mexico;
• Shipments of hundreds of pounds of marijuana repeatedly were brought into the United States from Mexico;
• The marijuana shipments were transported from state to state within the United States;
• The shipments were broken down into smaller loads;
• The divided loads of marijuana were delivered to sub-distributors at a number of locations in the United States;
• The marijuana was marketed for cash at a number of locations, including Colorado;
• The cash proceeds were collected and counted;
• A portion of the gross cash sales was transported to Mexico; and
• Cash proceeds transported to Mexico were delivered to the defendant in payment for the marijuana he provided.
Caro-Quintero generally managed operations within Mexico, including growing and harvesting ton-quantity crops of Marijuana in Mexico to supply and re-supply the drug trafficking venture. The defendant acquired land and farming equipment. Caro-Quintero hired workers who processed, stored, and moved marijuana crops in Mexico. The Mexican side of the venture required farms, buildings, and vehicles.
According to the stipulated facts regarding the District of Arizona case, Caro-Quintero admitted to working with others in a conspiracy to deliver approximately 3,000 pounds of marijuana to buyers in Arizona in 1994. The marijuana delivered in Arizona was provided to the would-be buyers by the defendant on credit, in anticipation of later payment. The defendant subsequently had conversations with undercover investigators posing as customers regarding the quality of the marijuana and the price and payment arrangements for more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
"Today's guilty plea demonstrates the Department of Justice's willingness to pursue drug kingpins no matter how long ago they were charged with a crime," said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette. "I especially want to thank all of the law enforcement agents and officers here in Colorado as well as in Arizona and Mexico for their perseverance in bringing this major drug trafficker to justice."
"The guilty plea of Miguel Caro-Quintero is another step to closing the book on this once powerful and brutally violent criminal band of family members and associates," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin. "He will now face justice for the misery and destruction he caused in both the United States and Mexico. This is yet another illustration that DEA and our courageous partners in Mexico are successfully attacking violent criminal organizations at every level."
Caro-Quintero faces not less than 10 years, and not more than 20 years imprisonment for the Colorado case. He faces a maximum penalty of not more than 5 years imprisonment for the Arizona case.
This case was investigated and supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Field Divisions in Colorado and Arizona, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver Field Division, with additional help from the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, state and local investigators from Utah and Colorado, members of the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office, and law enforcement officers in Mexico. The Department of Justice Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section provided critical support in the investigation and prosecution. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The Department of Justice's Office of Enforcement Operations provided assistance and support to the investigation and prosecution.
Caro-Quintero is being prosecuted in Colorado by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Barrett, Guy Till, and Susan "Zeke" Knox.