Arrest of alleged kingpin seen as blow to Sinaloa cartel
May 22nd 2012 · 0 Comments
SAN DIEGO — Alleged drug kingpin Victor Emilio Cazares, among the most wanted trafficking suspects in the United States, has been arrested in Mexico, U.S. and Mexican officials say, despite having changed his appearance through plastic surgery.
A senior U.S. law enforcement official in Mexico confirmed this week that Cazares was captured April 8 at a highway checkpoint near the western city of Guadalajara. Mexican authorities on Friday confirmed Cazares was in custody.
Mexican authorities did not make the arrest public at the time, and it has not been previously reported. Cazares, 48, is believed to be a key lieutenant of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel. The arrest is seen as a blow to the sprawling criminal organization, the most powerful in Mexico.
Cazares is charged with running a vast drug-distribution network featured in a Times series last year, “Inside the Cartel.” U.S. law enforcement sources said he was nabbed by Mexican authorities with the help of U.S. federal agents. Federal prosecutors in San Diego, where Cazares was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2007, are seeking his extradition.
Mexican police had trouble identifying Cazares because he had undergone plastic surgery, the sources said. Though Cazares kept a low profile in Mexico, his photograph appeared on a widely circulated list of Mexico’s most wanted drug traffickers distributed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Cazares eventually acknowledged his identity to Mexican officials who were holding him. Those officials also confirmed his identity through photos and fingerprint information from the U.S., where Cazares has two drug-trafficking convictions.
Cazares, in a photograph taken at the scene of the arrest, appears much younger than his age. His once straight hair is curly, he has a grizzled beard and is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Rockers.”
“It looks like he belongs in Venice Beach, surfing,” said one official familiar with the investigation.
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