The Main Stream

Apr 3, 2013 3:25 PM by Leasa Conze

Suspected drug cartel member returning to Tucson for prosecution

TUCSON - Mexican authorities are planning to extradite a suspected drug cartel member to Tucson to face prosecution.

A grand jury indicted Rafael Enrique Araiza, along with 17 other defendants. on November 23, 2010 on 65 counts, including charges involving illegally conducting a drug enterprise, money laundering, and unlawful use of wire communications.

Some defendants have been convicted but Araiza, one of two local cell leaders according to the Arizona Attorney General's office, was never caught and fled to Mexico.

He was arrested November 3, 2012 in Mexico on a provisional arrest warrant prepared by the Arizona Attorney General's office.

The AG's office says a major illegal drug trafficking organization was uncovered by a Tucson Police Department investigation and Araiza was identified in that investigation as the head of the operation.

Authorities say he organized the importation of marijuana through unsecured and unguarded corridors along the U.S./Mexico border, just south of San Miguel.

Authorities say the drugs were sold and distributed throughout Southern Arizona and Nevada.

They also say Araiza organized smuggling the drug proceeds, concealed in hidden compartments in vehicles, back into Mexico through U.S. ports of entry.

Araiza will be arraigned this week in the Pima County Courthouse.

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