Friday, September 22, 2023
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‘El Chapo’ Associate Extradited to San Diego

SAN DIEGO (CN) - One of the most-wanted drug trafficking suspects has been extradited to the United States and was arraigned in Federal Court on Monday.

Victor Emilio Cazares Gastellum, 52, also known as "El Licenciado," appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick and was ordered detained without bail. He faces conspiracy and money-laundering charges which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

A federal grand jury in San Diego indicted Cazares in 2007, along with 18 of his suspected lieutenants and foot soldiers. Prosecutors say Cazares' organization shipped multi-ton quantities of drugs from Columbia and Venezuela through Central America to Mexico. The drugs were then smuggled across the southwestern border and distributed across the United States, Duffy said.

Following his indictment, authorities issued a provisional arrest warrant and the State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million reward for information leading to Cazares' arrest and conviction.

Mexican authorities finally captured Cazares five years later on April 8, 2012, at a highway checkpoint near Guadalajara, according to prosecutors.

Until his arrest, authorities believed Cazares was aligned with the notorious leader of the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman.

The indictments were part of the 22-month sting "Operation Imperial Emperor," which resulted in the arrests of 402 people suspected of working for the cartel nationwide and the seizure of $45 million in cash and tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to prosecutors.

Cazares' next court hearing is scheduled for April 4.

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