Indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging an associate of a Sinaloa cartel leader with drug-trafficking conspiracy and firearms crimes


Ismael Quintero Arellanes was captured in Mexico on January 29, 2020

Date: February 10, 2020


A superseding indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Ismael Quintero Arellanes with participating in an international conspiracy to manufacture and distribute heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana and unlawful use of firearms as part of the Rafael Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, a faction of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel. The superseding indictment was returned under seal by a grand jury in July 2018. Quintero Arellanes was captured in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico on January 29, 2020. The United States intends to seek his extradition to face charges in the Eastern District of New York.

According to the superseding indictment, between January 1980 and June 2018, Caro Quintero led a drug trafficking organization responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics, and conspiring to murder persons who posed a threat to his narcotics enterprise. The charged murder conspiracy includes Caro Quintero's kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in February 1985.

As an associate of the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, Quintero Arellanes is charged with participating in an international heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine distribution conspiracy from February 2015 through June 2018, and an international marijuana distribution conspiracy from January 1980 through June 2018, as well as using firearms in support of the drug trafficking organization.

The investigation was led by the New York Strike Force, a crime-fighting unit comprising federal, state and local law enforcement agencies supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The Strike Force is based at the DEA's New York Division and includes agents and officers of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, DEA, New York City Police Department, New York State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The charges in the superseding indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Quintero Arellanes faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment.

The government's case is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Gina M. Parlovecchio, Michael Robotti and Erin Reid are in charge of the prosecution.