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Benjamin Arellano-Felix Pleads Guilty

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Benjamin Arellano-Felix will cough up $100 million and is likely to spend the rest of his life in federal prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to drug smuggling, money laundering and organized crime charges.

Arellano-Felix led the violent cartel that bears his name from 1986 until he was arrested in Mexico in 2002. His U.S. plea agreement calls for his to serve 25 years in prison. If he serves his time, Arellano-Felix, who is in his late 50s, will be sent to Mexico to complete the 22-year term to which he was sentenced there.

Arellano-Felix and his gang kidnapped and murdered informants and witnesses, bribed military and law enforcement officers and smuggled multi-ton loads of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, in an operation that reached as far south as Colombia.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy claimed in a statement that the Arellano-Felix cartel "has been effectively dismantled and no longer poses the same threat to the people of the United States or Mexico."

That, however, is a bit of a stretcher, as the old-time cartels that modernized the drug smuggling business and have murdered more than 30,000 people in the past 5 years in Mexico and the United States have fractured into warring factions that continue to kill people on a daily basis, and have the financial, political and military power to effectively challenge the Mexican state where and when they please.

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