09/13/12 – Former Mexican law enforcement official Jesus Quiñonez, who worked with both U.S. and Mexican governments to investigate criminal organizations, was sentenced to eight years in prison in San Diego on Monday, September 10. Quiñonez was the international liaison for Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno, a role in which he served as the point person in contact with U.S. state and local law enforcement agencies often working in border areas including San Diego, Tijuana, and Mexicali. He was arrested during a traffic stop in San Diego in 2010 and has been in court proceedings ever since.
Reports had indicated that Quiñonez could have faced life in prison after being indicted in a racketeering conspiracy involving members of the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix Organization. However, as part of an agreement reached earlier this year, he was only sentenced to just over eight years in prison in exchange for his cooperation with authorities and if he admitted to being involved with the smuggling of $13 million (USD) into Mexico on behalf of Fernando Sánchez Arellano, a nephew of the Arellano Felix brothers. Quiñonez also pled guilty to sharing information gleaned from his role as liaison with cartel members. The Associated Press reported, for example, that he had given information to Jose Alfredo Najera Gil, a presumed lieutenant in the Arellano Felix Organization, to help him avoid prosecution for his alleged involvement in a double homicide. During the course of the trial, Quiñonez apologized for his actions, saying that his original intentions were good and that the abuse of his relationship with informants was a mistake.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney James Melendes, 42 other members of the Arellano Felix Organization, which his dramatically decreased in power and presence since the early 2000s and is now allegedly run by nephew Sánchez Arellano, have been indicted along with Quiñonez, 38 of whom have already been convicted. The Associated Press reported that nearly 50,000 recorded phone calls provided the evidence used in these proceedings, showcasing the extensive work and collaboration necessary among officials to build their cases, which can take years.
In addition to Quiñonez’s case, the Arellano Felix Organization has also been in the news recently with the extradition of high-profile suspect Eduardo Arellano Felix from Mexico to San Diego on August 31. He will face charges related to his involvement in drug trafficking and organized crime, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, in the U.S.-Mexico border region.