93 arrested in crackdown on Mexican drug cartel

Wednesday, September 22nd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- Ninety-three people have been arrested in
a crackdown on one of the largest drug cartels in Mexico, federal
law enforcement officials said today.

Nearly $20 million in cash and $7 million in other assets were
seized during the two-year investigation, dubbed "Operation
Impunity." The campaign was conducted by the FBI, Drug Enforcement
Administration and Customs Bureau.

Key to the success was apprehension of three alleged "cell
heads" running the drug trafficking organization that remained
after the death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, officials said. He was
known as the "Lord of the Skies" because of his use of large
aircraft to move drugs. Carrillo was considered Mexico's No. 1 drug
lord until he died in July 1997 while recovering from plastic

"The impact of Operation Impunity is significant. By targeting
the cartel's importation, transportation and distribution network
we have substantially hindered their ability to move cocaine and
other drugs into and around this country," Attorney General Janet
Reno said in a written statement.

The three cell heads-- Arturo Arredondo, Jesse Qanilla and Jorge
Ontiveros-Rodriguez -- directed the Carrillo cartel's operations in
U.S. cities, according to the Justice Department.

The department said Arredondo had overall responsibility for
U.S. transportation and distribution of the organization's drugs,
while Qanilla managed the cartel's distribution of Mexican cocaine
in Chicago and Ontiveros-Rodriguez was responsible for operations
in San Diego.

In addition to cash and other assets, agents seized more than
12,000 kilograms of cocaine and 4,800 pounds of marijuana.

U.S.-Mexican relations worsened in May 1998 after U.S. officials
announced that a sting operation had snared some 160 people
suspected of laundering drug profits, including two dozen Mexican
bank executives who had been lured to the United States and

The disclosure of the three-year probe known as "Operation
Casablanca" provoked stern criticism by Mexican officials, who
objected to the use of U.S. undercover agents in Mexico without the
government's knowledge.

U.S. law enforcement officials said they didn't notify Mexico
because they feared endangering undercover agents. Mexico's
anti-drug operations often are infiltrated by drug gangs.

With sovereignty a touchy subject among Mexicans, politicians
denounced the intrusion and threatened to suspend cooperation in
anti-drug efforts. The Foreign Relations ministry filed a formal
protest and said it could seek to extradite and prosecute the
agents who had operated in Mexico without authorization.

President Clinton expressed regret for not consulting with
Mexican authorities and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo pledged
to continue anti-drug cooperation.