US authorities aim to extradite Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero in early 2024

Facing 19 charges, Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero might face U.S. justice in 2024, marking a new chapter in a decades-long saga.

Rafael Caro Quintero, former head of the Caborca Cartel and co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, is facing the likelihood of extradition to the United States within the first months of 2024. Quintero is to stand trial for 19 criminal charges, inclusive of the murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

George Papadopoulos, the second in command of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), made this announcement at a DEA event broadcast over the Internet. “Rafael Caro Quintero is currently awaiting extradition in Mexico. We are hopeful that he can be extradited early next year [2024] so that he can face justice here in the United States,” said Papadopoulos on May 2, during the DEA’s 50th-anniversary celebration, making reference to the Mexican drug lord.

The DEA official recounted the lengthy and complicated process authorities have undergone to bring Caro Quintero to justice. He acknowledged the efforts of the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) agents who apprehended him in Choix, Sinaloa, on July 15, 2022.

Initially, Caro Quintero was captured in Costa Rica on April 4, 1985, and subsequently extradited to Mexico. There, he was handed a 40-year prison sentence. However, due to a procedural error, he found himself released in the wee hours of August 9, 2013.

Two agents escort drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero on Friday, July 15, 2022.
(Photo: Mexican Ministry of the Navy, via AP)
Two agents escort drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero on Friday, July 15, 2022 (Photo: Mexican Ministry of the Navy, via AP)

During the nearly nine years of his freedom, Caro Quintero sought to compensate for his time in prison. He entered into a violent conflict over control of various territories in Sonora, Sinaloa, and Baja California against the Los Chapitos faction, led by the sons of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

In addition to leading the Caborca Cartel, Caro Quintero established the armed faction known as La Barredora 24/7 in 2017. This group, which included several of his family members, was formed to battle against the heirs of Guzmán Loera, leaving a gruesome trail of bloodshed in northern Sonora.

Since his re-apprehension in 2022, Caro Quintero’s legal defense, known as “The Prince” in his prime criminal years, has strived to prevent his extradition to the U.S. through amparos. However, these attempts have been rejected on various grounds, including the fact that no transfer order for him has been processed, as stated by the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República- FGR).

The 19 charges for which the U.S. is seeking Caro Quintero

A document from the US State Department, published by the newspaper Reforma last April, outlines the charges against the former leader of the Caborca Cartel.

U.S. authorities accuse Caro Quintero of involvement in a variety of crimes, including kidnapping, homicide, conspiracy to distribute multiple narcotics (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine), and the use of firearms.

Specifically, Caro Quintero is expected to be arraigned in four different U.S. courts:

  • Federal Court for the Central District of California: facing eight counts on an indictment issued on May 13, 1987.
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York: facing four counts from a July 16, 2018 indictment.
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas: facing three counts from a December 17, 2020 indictment.
  • 332nd District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas: facing four counts from a July 19, 2022 indictment.