PHOENIX – A suspected high-ranking drug cartel member of the Sinaloa Criminal Enterprise is expected to be extradited from Mexico City to Tucson to face state drug and money laundering charges, according to a press release by the Arizona Attorney General’s office.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced Wednesday the extradition of Rafael Enrique Araiza, a citizen of Mexico.
“The Attorney General’s Office created a task force over a year ago for foreign extraditions of criminals with the United States Marshals service (USMS), who have been doing an outstanding job,” Horne said. “As a result, the USMS worked alongside the Attorney General’s Office to locate this fugitive, and bring him back to Arizona to face criminal charges.”
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Araiza and 17 other defendants were indicted Nov. 23, 2010, by a grand jury on a 65-count indictment including charges that involved illegally conducting a drug enterprise, money laundering, and unlawful use of wire communication.
Various defendants have been convicted, but Araiza escaped to Mexico. He was one of two cell leaders.
The Tucson Police Department led the investigation that uncovered the illegal drug-trafficking organization and identified Araiza as head of the operation.
Officials said Araiza organized the importation of marijuana into the United States through unsecured and unguarded corridors along the Mexico/U.S. border just south of San Miguel. The drugs were sold and distributed throughout southern Arizona and Nevada. According to officials, Araiza also organized the smuggling of drug proceeds back into Mexico through U.S. ports of entry. The drug proceeds are said to have been sealed in hidden compartments in vehicles.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office prepared the provisional arrest warrant that was later issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and a Federal Court in Mexico City to arrest Araiza Nov. 3, 2012.
The U.S. Department of Justice and a Mexico City Federal Court approved the extradition packet prepared by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office leading to the successful extradition. The packet explained the cases with supporting affidavits including those from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Tucson Police Department and other witnesses. All of it had to be approved by the Arizona State Courts.
Araiza will be arraigned this week in the Pima County Courthouse.