SAN DIEGO (AP/The Blaze) —A 27-year-old fugitive caught in Southern California and handed over to officials in Mexico is a top operative in the La Familia drug cartel working out of the United States, Mexican authorities said. ) reported.Noriega Rios was arrested June 27 at her El Monte residence. Two days later she was taken to a border crossing in San Ysidro, Calif., and turned over to Mexican authorities under tight security.
In a 64-page criminal warrant issued in Mexico, Noriega Rios is accused of being one of La Familia's main U.S.-based operatives overseeing the violent cartel's methamphetamine distribution in California and Washington. The cartel, a group often characterized as ruthless and cult-like, is known for moving meth, along with some cocaine and marijuana, into the U.S. from the Mexican state of Michoacan, according to the Times.
Noriega Rios once used a gardening company to move drugs brought by sea into Long Beach, the newspaper said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Noriega Rios was arrested in the United States and deported to Mexico five times between 2004 and 2005 but has no criminal convictions in the U.S.
Authorities began watching Noriega Rios in El Monte upon the request of Mexican officials, who received a tip that she was living in El Monte, a working-class San Gabriel Valley city. After authorities were able to determine that the woman was in fact Noriega Rios, they arrested her without incident.
They confirmed her identity later using fingerprints, the Times reported.
Noriega was purportedly a contact between the Michoacan cartel and the powerful Sinaloa cartel and its leaders, including top cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a man whom the U.S. Treasury Department has called the world's most powerful drug trafficker.