Lead Defendant in Operation Luz Verde Extradited from Mexico

May 24, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 23, 2012 released the following:

“United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that today Armando Villareal Heredia, aka Gordo Villareal, was successfully extradited from the Republic of Mexico to the United States to face federal racketeering (RICO) and drug charges in the Southern District of California. According to court documents, Villareal is the lead defendant in a 43-defendant racketeering prosecution against the Fernando Sanchez- Arellano Organization (FSO) which has been ongoing in the Southern District of California since July 2010. Villareal was arrested by Mexican law enforcement officers on July 9, 2011 at the request of the United States. Since his arrest in Mexico, Villareal has remained in custody pending extradition to the United States. According to the indictment, Villareal was one of the top leaders of this criminal organization, which evolved from the now-defunct Arellano-Felix Organization and is headed by the nephew of Benjamin and Javier Arellano-Felix.

“Today’s extradition of Villareal, a top-lieutenant in the FSO who answered directly to Fernando Sanchez Arellano, highlights our continued successful efforts to work with the government of Mexico to combat organized criminal activity along the southwest border,” United States Attorney Duffy stated. To date, 38 defendants have entered guilty pleas in the case. During those guilty pleas, the defendants admitted to participating in a violent transnational racketeering enterprise controlled by Fernando Sanchez- Arellano and to committing murders, kidnappings, robberies, assaults, money laundering, and a wide range of drug trafficking offenses. Four defendants are fugitives and the only other remaining in-custody defendant is scheduled for trial on June 5, 2012.

The indictment in this case resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the multi-agency San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force (CBVTF). The CBVTF was formed to target those individuals involved in organized crime-related violent activities affecting both the United States and Mexico. Law enforcement personnel assigned to the CBVTF made extensive use of court-authorized wiretaps and other sophisticated investigative techniques to develop the significant evidence which led to the charges in this case.

United States Attorney Duffy praised the Mexican government for their assistance in the extradition of Villareal. She also commended the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort in handling this investigation, Operation Luz Verde. Agents and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; San Diego Police Department; Drug Enforcement Administration; San Diego Sheriff’s Office; Chula Vista Police Department; U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; San Diego District Attorney’s Office; and California Department of Justice participated in this OCDETF investigation. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against organized crime and major drug trafficking organizations.

The defendant is expected to be in federal court in San Diego tomorrow, May 24, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. before United States Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes.

An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendant is presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call


We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico here.


To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


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Mexico Captures Armando Villareal Heredia an Alleged US-born Tijuana Drug Lieutenant

July 12, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on July 11, 2011 released the following:

“By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Federal police have captured a U.S.-born drug lieutenant who joined the Tijuana cartel after a crackdown on the notorious Arellano Felix brothers caused the group to splinter and emerge with a younger leadership, officials said Monday.

Armando Villareal Heredia, 33, is a San Diego native accused of trafficking drugs from the northern state of Sinaloa into the United States, federal police said in a statement.

Villareal is also wanted by the U.S. on federal conspiracy and racketeering charges, according to a 2010 complaint that alleges murder, kidnapping and other crimes in both Mexico and California. Named in the most-wanted list of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s San Diego region, Villareal is among 43 defendants charged by the U.S. Attorney.

Mexican and U.S. authorities say Villareal takes orders from Fernando Sanchez Arellano, aka “The Engineer,” a drug kingpin who is the leader of a younger but weaker Tijuana cartel. Sanchez, who is in his 30s, is a nephew of the four Arellano Felix brothers who have been either killed or arrested since 2006.

In the complaint, U.S. officials say Sanchez’s criminal organization is an offshoot of the defunct Arellano Felix cartel, whose domination of Tijuana was fictionally portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Traffic.”

Federal police arrested Villareal on Saturday in the northern city of Hermosillo.

Justice Department spokeswoman Debra Hartman confirmed Villareal was a U.S. citizen. Hartman did not want to comment on Monday on a possible extradition request.

In the past, Mexican authorities have captured other drug cartel members born in the U.S. Last August Mexican authorities captured a Texas-born drug kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie.”

The arrest or death of the Tijuana cartel’s leadership in recent years sparked a bloody war of succession, but the strategy used to bring the gang down is being replicated in other violence-plagued regions.

More than 35,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon began its offensive against organized crime in 2006, according to official figures. Some groups put the number at more than 40,000.

In other parts of Mexico, drug cartels are also splintering to form offshoots triggering violent confrontations.

On Monday, Mexican authorities blamed the Knights Templar, a gang that broke away from La Familia cartel, for the Friday killings of 11 people outside Mexico City.

The victims were shot with high-powered rifles and found piled near a water well on the outskirts of Mexico City.

The attorney general of Mexico state, home to suburbs that ring Mexico’s capital, said the victims were kidnapped two days earlier in a bar by members of the Knights Templar, according to the only survivor of the mass killing.

Attorney general Alfredo Castillo said the survivor told police only four of the 11 victims were members of the cult-like La Familia cartel and deemed as rivals of the Knights Templar.

Associated Press writer Gloria Perez in Toluca contributed to this story.”

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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