MEXICO ARRESTS ALLEGED DRUG CARTEL KINGPIN; SMUGGLING: VETERAN BOSS BROUGHT COCAINE FROM COLOMBIA, PROSECUTOR SAYS.

October 31, 1999, Sunday, Home Edition , Los Angeles Times

MEXICO ARRESTS ALLEGED DRUG CARTEL KINGPIN; SMUGGLING: VETERAN BOSS BROUGHT COCAINE FROM COLOMBIA, PROSECUTOR SAYS.

JAMES F. SMITH, TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mexican officials said Saturday that they have arrested a veteran boss of a drug cartel that smuggles Colombian cocaine up Mexico’s Pacific Coast into the United States, and thus crippled a major branch of the Juarez cartel.

Mariano Herran Salvatti, Mexico’s top drug prosecutor, told reporters that agents arrested Juan Jose Quintero Payan, a longtime trafficker, when he arrived at a house in Guadalajara on Friday night for a tryst with his lover.

Herran described Quintero Payan as one of the top three leaders of the Juarez cartel since the death of cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes in July 1997. Carrillo died after undergoing plastic surgery to change his appearance, and his death set off a scramble for leadership of one of Mexico’s major organized crime gangs.

“The Juarez cartel cell that operates from Jalisco state toward Sinaloa state and then north to the United States is headless at this moment,” Herran declared.

Quintero Payan and his brother Emilio, also a Juarez cartel boss, are uncles of Rafael Caro-Quintero, who was convicted in 1988 of the murder three years earlier of Enrique Camarena Salazar, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Quintero Payan also faces U.S. charges in San Antonio and Phoenix. Herran said he will be prosecuted on seven counts in Mexico, including drug trafficking, money laundering and possession of military weapons, before any extradition to the United States can be considered.

Herran described Quintero Payan, 57, as among Mexico’s oldest drug traffickers, one who served as tutor to such other notorious traffickers as Juan Jose Esparragoza. Quintero Payan, nicknamed Don Juanjo, was born in Guadalajara, in western Mexico, and kept his power base there, running the Pacific Coast cell of the Juarez cartel.

The arrest ended a three-month undercover investigation, Herran said, in which agents narrowed down Quintero Payan’s movements to seven houses he used in Guadalajara. He was seized as he arrived alone at one of the houses in the Zapopan section of the city to meet his lover, identified as Dora Alicia Rodriguez Vargas. Herran said she was also being questioned.

Mexican drug prosecutors carried out the investigation alone and did not inform the DEA of the arrest, Herran said. The anti-drug chief said he also expected arrests soon at the top of the Tijuana cartel, run by the Arrellano-Felix family, another of the major cocaine-smuggling cartels.

Quintero Payan has a long and apparently violent history in the drug smuggling underworld. News reports said he was indicted in the United States in 1985 for marijuana smuggling along with his brother Emilio, though neither was caught at the time. The indictment stated that the brothers held U.S. bank accounts worth nearly $ 20 million and that they were responsible for shooting an informant who was gathering information on them.

Herran called the arrest part of a “maxi-process whose final goal is to bring to justice all the principals in the Juarez cartel, from the bosses to the middlemen to the operative personnel, as well as those who are working in an official institution and providing protection for the activities of this cartel.”

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