08/20/12 – The high profile case of alleged drug trafficker Sandra Ávila Beltrán (51), known as the “Queen of the Pacific” (“La Reina del Pacífico”), continued to unfold when a Miami judge denied Ávila’s bail on August 14, 2012, after determining she was a potential flight risk. Reports indicate that her arraignment has been postponed until September 14, at which point she will be asked to enter a plea. If convicted, Ávila faces a minimum of ten years in prison. Her lawyer, Stephan Ralls, believes the case will be resolved quickly, going so far as to suggest that her trial will begin by November or December and conclude before the end of the year.
Ávila has continuously maintained that she was not and has never been involved with drug trafficking despite her family connections to the business and her personal relationships. The niece of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo–”the godfather” of Mexican drug smuggling who is currently incarcerated for his role in DEA agent Enrique Camarena’s murder in 1985–, she grew up within the trafficking community as a part of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Queen of the Pacific worked her way up through the male dominated hierarchy, occasionally using high profile romances with cartel leaders to advance her position. Prosecutors have suggested it was one such romance with Juan Diego Espinoza, a Colombian kingpin, that cemented the relationship between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Colombian drug trafficking organization, Norte del Valle.
The Queen of the Pacific was extradited last week to Florida as part of a case that has garnered significant international attention. Ávila fought her extradition for over two years after being arrested on drug trafficking charges in 2007, arguing that prosecution in the United States would be double jeopardy for crimes she had already been tried for in Mexico. (Read more about her extradition here and here). Ávila was acquitted in Mexico of the charges stemming from the 2007 arrest, but the current U.S. case is based upon smuggling that occurred in 2001 and involved the movement of 100 kilos of cocaine from Mexico to Chicago. She also faces other lesser charges relating to trafficking activities that occurred between 1999 and 2004.