Last of brothers behind Tijuana drug cartel sentenced for decades-long reign of terror

Eduardo Arellano-Felix, also known as 'El Doctor,' after his arrest Oct. 27, 2008, in Mexico. Luis Acosta / AFP - Getty Images file

One of four brothers who ran one of the world's most violent drug cartels from Tijuana, Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday in San Diego to 15 years in prison in what authorities called the end to a bloody era.

Eduardo Arellano-Felix, 56, was the last of the brothers to have been brought to justice for the Tijuana Cartel's two-decade reign of terror beginning in the mid-1980s, during which it moved hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, authorities said.

The cartel terrorized the U.S. Southwest border with tactics that included executions, torture, beheadings, kidnappings and bribery.

The four brothers were first indicted on drug conspiracy charges in 1998, with other charges of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy added in later years.

Benjamin Arellano-Felix and Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix were captured in 2002 and 2006, respectively, and are serving long terms in federal prisons. Ramon Arellano-Felix, identified by U.S. authorities as the cartel's "enforcer," was killed in a police shootout in 2002.

Mexican authorities arrested Eduardo Arellano-Felix in Tijuana in October 2008, but he wasn't extradited to the U.S. until August of last year.

He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to use drug profits. The agreement meant he avoided the possibility of facing more than 100 years behind bars if he had gone to trial. He also has to forfeit $50 million.

"The sentence that Eduardo Arellano-Felix received today marks the end of an era in cartel history," William Sherman, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego office.

Prosecutors noted that Eduardo — a physician who was known as "El Doctor" — was less involved than his three brothers were in the cartel's violent operations, but they said he was still "integral" to the operation.

He "advised his brothers as they orchestrated the importation of hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, ordered the kidnap and murder of numerous people, and directed the widespread corruption of law enforcement and military personnel in Mexico," they said in a sentencing memorandum.

"Defendant's actions resulted in destroyed lives and untold suffering on both sides of the border," the memo said.

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