- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A high-ranking member of the infamous Gulf Cartel in Mexico, who helped direct shipments of cocaine and marijuana to the United States and oversaw violent attacks by Los Zetas on Mexican law enforcement officers and rival drug traffickers, has been extradited to the U.S. and ordered held pending trial on drug conspiracy charges, the Justice Department said.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the department’s Criminal Division and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said Aurelio Cano-Flores faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life if convicted.

Cano-Flores, 39, who also is known as “Yankee,” made his initial appearance in federal court in Washington this week before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola following his Aug. 19 extradition to the United States. Cano-Flores, who was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial, had been held by Mexican authorities pending extradition since his June 10, 2009, arrest.

According to court documents, Cano-Flores was a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel when it worked in close partnership with Los Zetas, collectively known as “The Company.” The Gulf Cartel allegedly transported shipments of cocaine and marijuana by motor vehicles from Mexico to cities in Texas for distribution to other cities within the United States.

The indictment alleges that Cano-Flores, his co-defendants and others organized, directed and carried out various acts of violence against Mexican law enforcement officers and rival drug traffickers to retaliate against and to intimidate anyone who interfered with, or who was perceived to potentially interfere with, the cocaine and marijuana trafficking activities of the Gulf Cartel.

Cano-Flores was charged, along with 19 other defendants, in a superseding indictment returned on Nov. 4, 2010. He is charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana for importation into the United States.

“As charged in the indictment, Cano-Flores led the Gulf Cartels drug trafficking activities in Camargo, Mexico,” Mr. Breuer said. “Cano-Flores was allegedly responsible for ensuring that multiton quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana were shipped into the United States, and that the illegal drug proceeds were subsequently funneled back into Mexico.

“Together with our counterparts across the border, the Justice Department is committed to bringing cartel leaders and associates to justice for their crimes, and the violence and destruction they cause,” he said.

Ms. Leonhart described Cano-Flores as a “major drug trafficker connected to the extreme violence of the Los Zetas and Gulf Cartels and who allegedly is responsible for transporting multi-ton quantities of drugs into the United States.

“This is part of a concerted, combined and coordinated effort by Mexico and the United States to target the command and control of the drug trafficking cartels,” she said. “This extradition is another example of our enduring commitment to bring to justice violent criminals who deny justice to others, and whose drugs are a threat to both our nations.”

According to the indictment, from June 2006 until his arrest, Cano-Flores oversaw drug trafficking activities in Camargo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, including procuring for distribution significant quantities of cocaine, heroin and bulk marijuana. He also is accused of coordinating the movement of illegal narcotics from Mexico into the United States as well as the repatriation of drug proceeds into Mexico.

The Gulf Cartel controls most of the cocaine and marijuana trafficking through the Matamoros, Mexico, corridor to the United States. Los Zetas began as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel, but has emerged in recent years as an independent drug trafficking organization.

In July 2009, the Treasury Department identified Los Zetas bosses Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales as “significant foreign narcotics traffickers.” Both are named as co-defendants in the Cano-Flores indictment.

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