Home Denver Press Releases 2009 Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Massive Amounts of Marijuana from Mexico to the United States...
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Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Massive Amounts of Marijuana from Mexico to the United States

U.S. Attorney’s Office October 23, 2009
  • District of Colorado (303) 454-0100

DENVER—Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero, age 46, a resident and national of the Republic of Mexico and a reputed member of the Sonora Cartel, pled guilty today to charges of marijuana trafficking, United States Attorney David Gaouette and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin announced. The guilty pleas were tendered before U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer. The plea agreement resolves indictments from the District of Arizona and the District of Colorado. Caro-Quintero, who appeared at the hearing in custody, is scheduled to be sentence for his criminal conduct on February 4, 2010. The defendant admitted to trafficking more than 100 tons of marijuana from 1985 through 1988, resulting in more than $100,000,000 in payment being sent to Mexico.

Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver in 1990. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona in 1994. He was arrested in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, in December 2001. He was then extradited to the United States on February 25, 2009. Prior to his extradition, Caro-Quintero was held in custody pending extradition, and served a prison sentence in Mexico for weapons possession crimes. The defendant and his older brother, Rafael Caro-Quintero, were identified as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under The Kingpin Act in June 2000, subjecting them and their associates to economic sanctions. Rafael Caro-Quintero was accused of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, and was prosecuted by the Mexican government. Rafael Caro-Quintero was convicted in Mexico and is serving a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of the DEA Special Agent.

According to the stipulated facts admitted at the change of plea hearing in the District of Colorado case, beginning in 1985, Miguel Angel Caro-Quintero and others knowingly engaged in a series of racketeering acts constituting in a sustained and persistent pattern of activity in which:

  • Tons of marijuana were grown or acquired in Mexico;
  • Shipments of hundreds of  pounds of marijuana repeatedly were brought into the United States from Mexico;
  • The marijuana shipments were transported from state to state within the United States;
  • The shipments were broken down into smaller loads;
  • The divided loads of marijuana were delivered to sub-distributors at a number of locations in the United States;
  • The marijuana was marketed for cash at a number of locations, including Colorado;
  • The cash proceeds were collected and counted;
  • A portion of the gross cash sales was transported to Mexico; and
  • Cash proceeds transported to Mexico were delivered to the defendant in payment for the marijuana he provided.

Caro-Quintero generally managed operations within Mexico, including growing and harvesting ton-quantity crops of Marijuana in Mexico to supply and re-supply the drug trafficking venture. The defendant acquired land and farming equipment. Caro-Quintero hired workers who processed, stored, and moved marijuana crops in Mexico. The Mexican side of the venture required farms, buildings, and vehicles.

According to the stipulated facts regarding the District of Arizona case, Caro-Quintero admitted to working with others in a conspiracy to deliver approximately 3,000 pounds of marijuana to buyers in Arizona in 1994. The marijuana delivered in Arizona was provided to the would-be buyers by the defendant on credit, in anticipation of later payment. The defendant subsequently had conversations with undercover investigators posing as customers regarding the quality of the marijuana and the price and payment arrangements for more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.

“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department of Justice’s willingness to pursue drug kingpins no matter how long ago they were charged with a crime,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette. “I especially want to thank all of the law enforcement agents and officers here in Colorado as well as in Arizona and Mexico for their perseverance in bringing this major drug trafficker to justice.”

“The guilty plea of Miguel Caro-Quintero is another step to closing the book on this once powerful and brutally violent criminal band of family members and associates,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Sweetin. “He will now face justice for the misery and destruction he caused in both the United States and Mexico. This is yet another illustration that DEA and our courageous partners in Mexico are successfully attacking violent criminal organizations at every level.”

Caro-Quintero faces not less than 10 years, and not more than 20 years' imprisonment for the Colorado case. He faces a maximum penalty of not more than five years' imprisonment for the Arizona case.

This case was investigated and supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Field Divisions in Colorado and Arizona, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver Field Division, with additional help from the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, state and local investigators from Utah and Colorado, members of the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, and law enforcement officers in Mexico. The Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section provided critical support in the investigation and prosecution. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The Department of Justice’s Office of Enforcement Operations provided assistance and support to the investigation and prosecution.

Caro-Quintero is being prosecuted in Colorado by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Barrett, Guy Till, and Susan “Zeke” Knox.

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