A short timeline of the Tijuana Cartel, a.k.a. the Arellano Félix Organization.
Created by insightcrime on Oct 26, 2010
Last updated: 08/10/12 at 07:10 PM
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A US federal court sentenced Benjamin Arellano Felix to 25 years in prison and ordered him to turn over $100 million in criminal proceeds. Once he has served his time in the US, Arellano will be deported to Mexico to complete a 22-year sentence that he began there in 2007.
Two former members of the Tijuana Cartel are being tried for the kidnapping and murders they performed in San Diego on behalf of the Palillos, a splinter group of the Tijuana cartel that had relocated to the US city.
Benjamin Arellano Felix, former boss of the Tijuana Cartel, accepted the racketeering and money laundering charges against him as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha, “El Ruedas,” an enforcer for the Tijuana cartel, was arrested in Tijuana after he attempted to kill a cartel defector.
Mexican authorities arrested Armando Villareal Heredia, alias “El Gordo,” a top-ranking lieutenant in the cartel who was responsible for the logistics of shipping drugs along Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Tijuana cartel lieutenant Rigoberto Yanez Guerrero, alias “El Primo,” pleaded guilty in a US court to drug trafficking charges and membership in the cartel.
Tijuana cartel leader Benjamin Arellano Felix, alias "El Señor," has been extradited to the US to face charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering.
According to Baja California's security secretary, the Familia Michoacana is paying the Tijuana Cartel to use Tijuana as a transit point to ship drugs to the US.
Lieutenant Colonel Julian Leyzaola, who'd gained praise from President Calderon for his hardline stance against crime in Tijuana, is removed from his post as the city's public safety secretary. Leyzaola is credited with bringing major security improvements to Tijuana, but was accused of human rights violations.
In the capital city of Sinaloa, Culiacan, three banners were posted, signed by the Tijuana Cartel and mocking the two leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” and Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo.”
Mexican military seize 134 tons of marijuana at a storage facility in Tijuana. Authorities say it belongs to the Sinaloa Cartel, illustrating that Zambada may have already taken over the plaza.
Mexican police arrested six low-level members of the Tijuana Cartel, in the process confiscating a small amount of cocaine and ten kilograms of crystal meth.
Mexican army officers discovered a safe house operated by the Tijuana Cartel, arresting four cartel members in the process, including Julio Cesar Magaña, a cousin of Armando Villarreal Heredia, alias “El Gordo,” who is considered to be a top leader of the cartel. Weapons and 502 kilograms of marijuana were also uncovered in the raid.
The United States unveils a detailed indictment of what it calls the "Sánchez Arellano Organization," claiming that it remains a force in the drug and human trafficking networks, as well as the gambling, extortion and kidnapping rackets.
Authorities capture García Simental. Fernando Sánchez Arellano takes the reigns of the organization, but it’s unclear how much power he has left as he holes up in his stronghold, the eastern part of the city, and reports emerge that he’s reached out to Zambada.
Following complaints by neighbors about a loud party, military personnel raid a house in Tijuana. Among those captured is Santiago Meza López. Meza, an operative of the García Simental wing, admits to dissolving over 300 bodies in acid for his boss. For his work, he receives $600 per week and a catchy nickname: 'El Pozolero' or the 'Stew-maker.' García Simental, meanwhile, is thought to have made an alliance with Zambada in a push by the Sinaloa Cartel to take the Tijuana plaza.
After a battle with the army in a neighborhood in Tijuana, Eduardo Arellano Félix is captured by Mexican soldiers. The arrest leaves the organization rudderless and an internal battle breaks out between Eduardo’s nephew, Fernando Sánchez Arellano, alias 'El Ingeneiro,' and a top security operative, Eduardo Teodoro García Simental, alias 'El Teo' or 'Tres Letras.' The fighting leaves hundreds dead in some of the most gruesome manners to date in Mexico.
Kidnapping skyrockets in Tijuana. Many connect it to the dwindling power of the Tijuana Cartel, which appears to be searching for new sources of revenue and is having difficulty keeping their personnel from freelancing.
US Coast Guard arrest Francisco Javier Arellano Félix, alias 'El Tigrillo,' on a boat off the coast of Mexico with 50 million dollars. He is tried and sentenced in a San Diego federal courtroom to life in prison without parole.
After several meetings in their maximum security prison, Benjamín Arellano Félix and Osiel Caádenas Guillén (photo), the encarcerated head of the Gulf Cartel, forge an alliance to battle their mutual enemy: the Sinaloa Cartel. For a time, the alliance invigorates the cartel.
In another blow to the cartel, Mexican authorities arrest Benjamín Arellano Félix. Zambada, sensing his rivals’ rising vulnerability, makes a move on the Mexicali plaza, just 60 miles to the east of Tijuana. The remaining members of the AFO search for new alliances to staunch the bleeding.
Ramón Arellano Félix and a group of his hitmen travel to Mazatlán, Sinaloa in search of Zambada. Zambada, through his extensive informant network, gets word and his men surprise Arellano Félix, killing him and several of his hitmen in the process.
Guzmán escapes from prison and reconsolidates his group, which includes the powerful Carrillo Fuentes clan in Juárez, Zambada, Esparragoza, and the Beltrán Leyva brothers. They call themselves the “Federation” but more popularly referred to as the Sinaloa Cartel. A new round of fighting breaks out between the two organizations.
Amado Carrillo Fuentes dies after having plastic surgery. His death opens the door for the Tijuana-based AFO to move on the Juárez plaza. Among the enemies on their hit list are two top Juárez lieutenants: Ismael Zambada García, alias 'El Mayo,' Juan José Esparragoza, alias 'El Azul.'
Mexican authorities arrest Héctor Luis Palma. Their key rivals out of the way, the Arellano Félix Organization looks to expand their influence, developing alliances with powerful organizations in Michoacan, Oaxaca, Colima and Jalisco. Their drug routes consolidated on the western edge of the country, the syndicate sets its eyes on other prizes, like the lucrative Juárez plaza, or drug trafficking corridor.
Mexican authorities in detain Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, considered one of the founders of the cartel, in Tijuana. Francisco Rafael serves ten years, then is extradited to the United States where he serves four years for selling cocaine to an undercover agent in 1980.
The Arellano Félix clan sends a team of hitmen to the Guadalajara airport in search of Guzmán. A gunfight ensues, and the hitmen mistake Guzmán’s caravan with that of Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo killing the Cardinal and several members of his entourage. Guzmán escapes but fifteen days later is captured in Guatemala and deported back to Mexico where he convicted and sentenced to 20 years.
Guzmán and his partner Héctor Luis Palma, alias 'El Güero,' send close to a dozen gunmen, dressed as state security personnel, into a Puerto Vallarta nightclub where Ramón and Benjamín Arellano Félix are partying. The massacre leaves nine Arellano Félix members dead but Benjamín and Ramón escape, reportedly via an air duct. Palma has his own vendetta with the Arellano Félix clan – they reportedly killed his wife and sent him her head in a box.
Following the arrest of their uncle on April 4, the Arellano Félix brothers -- Benjamin, Ramón, Rafael, Francisco Javier, Eduardo – move their operations to Tijuana, in the northern part of Baja California and establish their own, independent drug trafficking syndicate, which takes on their name, the Arellano Félix Organization.
Ambitious to a fault, Ramón Arellano Félix kills a close associate of Joaquín Guzmán Loera (photo), alias 'El Chapo,' who is busy forming his own drug trafficking syndicate. The assassination sparks a fight between the two groups that lasts 20 years.
Arellano Félix brothers begin working with their uncle, the legendary Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. Félix Gallardo heads up the Gaudalajara Cartel, Mexico’s version of the Medellín Cartel.
Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, a Sinaloa native, begins his steady rise to the top of the drug trafficking chain moving large quantities of marijuana to the United States and developing skills of incorporating various groups, as well as politicians and security officials, into federations so that all benefit.