SAN DIEGO— Jesus Quinonez traveled often to San Diego to discuss cross-border investigations of organized crime with U.S. law enforcement officials. He didn't know he was the target of an investigation himself.
The former Mexican law enforcement official faces a possible sentence of life in federal prison Monday when he is sentenced for racketeering conspiracy, more than two years after he and 42 others were charged in a far-reaching indictment that targeted remnants of the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel. Prosecutors have recommended that Quinonez be sentenced to eight years, one month in prison.
Quinonez was the international liaison for Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno, serving as his primary contact with U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an area that includes the border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali. He pleaded guilty in May, weeks before he was scheduled for trial.
As part of the plea agreement, Quinonez admitted that he agreed to help smuggle $13 million into Mexico for a group headed by Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of the Arellano Felix brothers. The Arellano Felix cartel was once one of the world's most powerful drug cartels, but its power began to erode in 2002 when its leaders began getting killed or captured.
Quinonez also admitted sharing information with a reputed Sanchez Arellano lieutenant, Jose Alfredo Najera Gil, about an investigation of a double homicide in Tijuana in March 2010. According to the plea agreement, the murders were committed by the Sanchez Arellano gang.