Judge Burns denies early release for “ruthless and inhumane” Tijuana Cartel leader Benjamín Arellano Félix

A US district judge in Southern California denies the request for early release filed by former Tijuana Cartel leader Benjamín Arellano Félix. The judge cites the severity of the criminal's actions and the potential risk to the public as reasons for upholding the 25-year sentence.
  1. Benjamin Arellano Felix, former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, has had his request for early release denied by a US district judge.
  2. Based on his advanced age and health concerns, the request was dismissed due to the lack of Covid-19 cases in the prison and the judge’s belief that Arellano Felix’s inhumane acts while leading the cartel deserve severe punishment.
  3. The judge also expressed concern that Arellano Felix may reconnect with criminal associates and attempt to resurrect the Juarez Cartel, which led to the decision to keep him in prison until 2033.

In a 14-page brief, a U.S. district judge denied the request filed by Benjamín Arellano Félix, former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, for his early release, which means he will remain in prison until 2033.

The 69-year-old criminal’s request was submitted in April of last year because, due to his advanced age and state of health, his stay in prison during the Covid-19 pandemic could pose a risk.

“Arellano deserves the severe punishment imposed by the court” was one of the considerations included in the motion by Judge Larry Burns, who confessed in previous years that he would have sentenced the criminal leader to life in prison if his plea agreement had not limited the sentence to 25 years, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“His leadership [at the helm of the Tijuana Cartel] was ruthless and inhumane,” the judge added in his brief. Larry Burns is the one who, in 2012, handed down the prison sentence to the former leader of the Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF) after he pleaded guilty to charges of criminal association and conspiracy to launder money.

Benjamín Arellano Félix operated as the "brains" of the criminal organization. (PFP/DARKROOM)
Benjamín Arellano Félix operated as the “brains” of the criminal organization. (PFP/DARKROOM)

That year, the criminal boss nicknamed “El Min” admitted that between 1992 and 1997 he had personally directed the murders of ten people.

Benjamín Arellano Félix, also known as “El Señor”, “Licenciado Sánchez” or “Licenciado Alegría”, was arrested in 2002 in the state of Puebla. His extradition process began in 2007 and it was not until four years later, in 2011, that he was handed over to the US.

Arellano Felix’s arguments to ask for his release

On April 26, 2022, Benjamín Arellano Félix filed before the Southern District Court of California a petition for his release after having served only 11 years of his sentence.

One of the main arguments presented to the authorities was his delicate health condition, as he suffers from hypertension, obesity, and liver dysfunction. These conditions, said the former CAF leader, would put him at risk in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Burns dismissed this reasoning because at the Lee Correctional Center in Jonesville, Virginia (where the drug lord is being held), no virus cases have been detected, and both employees and prisoners are vaccinated. In addition, the magistrate reflected that the ailments “that age brings with it” would occur in or out of prison.

Benjamín Arellano Félix was involved in at least 10 murders in the 1990s. (Special)
Benjamín Arellano Félix was involved in at least 10 murders in the 1990s. (Special)

His “rehabilitation” process was another of the reasons given by Benjamín Arellano Félix when asking for his freedom, since he assured that he has had modifications in his behavior and even, as a believer and practitioner of Christianity, “he is dedicated to helping those who need it.”

Nonetheless, his extensive and rich criminal trajectory had a notoriously greater weight for Judge Burns since the “inhumane” acts perpetrated by the Tijuana Cartel under his command cannot be ignored and would merit up to a lifetime in prison. “Their crimes were vile and heinous, showing extreme cruelty, lack of conscience, and disregard for human life,” Burns wrote.

Another of Judge Burns’ reasoning for denying Arellano Felix requested that despite the years he has spent in prison, there is the possibility that “he might reconnect with the remnant associates of the violent organization he controlled for two decades” and even raised the scenario that he might attempt to resurrect the Juarez Cartel.

Inhibiting that prospect by requiring him to complete his original sentence furthers the goals of specific deterrence and protection of the public,” Larry Burns ruled in his motion.