Photo: Ivan Velazquez Caballero
Mexico has extradited high-ranking drug cartel suspect Ivan Velazquez Caballero to the United States to face drug- and arms-trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and homicide charges, the U.S. Embassy confirmed.
The 43-year-old alleged Los Zetas cartel member, also known as “El Taliban” or “Z-50,” arrived in Laredo, Texas, on Thursday, the embassy said in a statement.
The suspect appeared in federal court in Laredo and his arraignment was scheduled for Dec. 3,
Velazquez, who was captured by Mexican marines on Sept. 26, 2012, in the central state of San Luis Potosi, is suspected of being one of the leaders of the notorious Los Zetas drug mob.
He could face life in prison and a $4 million fine if found guilty of drug trafficking and up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted of money laundering.
Velazquez was listed along with 33 other suspects in a 2010 U.S. federal indictment that alleged they conspired to smuggle narcotics and weapons, launder money and carry out abductions of U.S. citizens abroad, among other crimes, the embassy said Friday.
It added that 15 of those suspects have already been convicted and two are serving life sentences.
The Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but those two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and have since fought a brutal turf war in northeastern Mexico.
Regarded as Mexico’s most ruthless cartel, the Zetas were behind the August 2011 daytime arson attack on a casino in the northern metropolis of Monterrey that left 52 employees and gamblers dead.
Zetas gunmen allegedly torched the gaming establishment after its owner refused to pay protection money.