Accused top female drug trafficker returned to Mexico

On the Border

Accused top female drug trafficker returned to Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Accused drug trafficker Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the "Queen of the Pacific," was returned to Mexico from the U.S. on Tuesday to face a money-laundering charge, her lawyer said.

An official in the Attorney General's Office said Avila was in the custody of federal authorities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Her lawyer, Jorge Alfonso Espino, said she faces the money-laundering charge in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Avila has been in custody since 2007 when she was charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and organized crime. A Mexican judge acquitted her of those charges in December 2010, but she remained in custody and was extradited to the U.S. a year ago.

She pleaded guilty in April to being an accessory after the fact in an organization that included Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, her boyfriend at the time. Espinosa had pleaded guilty in 2009 to cocaine trafficking charges.

A statement signed by Avila said she provided money to Espinosa for travel and lodging so he could evade arrest by authorities between 2002 and 2004.

Avila was sentenced to 70 months in prison in Miami federal court last month and released almost immediately for time served in Mexico.

The U.S extradition request had said she belonged to an organization that trafficked cocaine from Colombia to the United States. U.S. prosecutors originally charged that she helped store and move at least 100 kilograms of the drug from Mexico to the United States.

At the time of her earlier arrest, prosecutors said Avila spent more than a decade working her way to the top of Mexico's drug trade, seducing several notorious kingpins and uniting Colombian and Mexican gangs.

Avila comes from a family of powerful drug lords: She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, "the godfather" of Mexican drug smuggling, who is serving a 40-year sentence in Mexico for drug smuggling and the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico's western Jalisco state. Another uncle, Juan Jose Quintero Payan, was extradited to the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges.

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