High-Ranking Member of Mexican Gulf Cartel Extradited to the United States to Face Drug Conspiracy Charges

WASHINGTON – Aurelio Cano-Flores, aka “Yankee” and “Yeyo,” a high-ranking member of the Mexican Gulf Cartel, has been extradited to the United States from Mexico to face drug conspiracy charges, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Cano-Flores, 39, made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the District of Columbia, after being extradited to the United States on Aug. 19, 2011. Cano-Flores was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial. Cano-Flores had been in the custody of Mexican authorities pending extradition since his arrest on June 10, 2009.

Cano-Flores was charged, along with 19 other defendants, in a superseding indictment returned on Nov. 4, 2010. He is charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana for importation into the United States.

“As charged in the indictment, Cano-Flores led the Gulf Cartel’s drug trafficking activities in Camargo, Mexico,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Cano-Flores was allegedly responsible for ensuring that multi-ton quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana were shipped into the United States, and that the illegal drug proceeds were subsequently funneled back into Mexico. Together with our counterparts across the border, the Justice Department is committed to bringing cartel leaders and associates to justice for their crimes, and the violence and destruction they cause.”

“Today we have brought to a court of law Aurelio Cano-Flores, a major drug trafficker connected to the extreme violence of the Los Zetas and Gulf Cartels and who allegedly is responsible for transporting multi-ton quantities of drugs into the United States,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “This is part of a concerted, combined, and coordinated effort by Mexico and the United States to target the command and control of the drug trafficking cartels. This extradition is another example of our enduring commitment to bring to justice violent criminals who deny justice to others, and whose drugs are a threat to both our nations.”

According to court documents, Cano-Flores was a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel when it worked in close partnership with Los Zetas, collectively known as “The Company.” The Gulf Cartel allegedly transported shipments of cocaine and marijuana by motor vehicles from Mexico to cities in Texas for distribution to other cities within the United States. The indictment alleges that Cano-Flores, his co-defendants and others organized, directed, and carried out various acts of violence against Mexican law enforcement officers and rival drug traffickers to retaliate against and to intimidate anyone who interfered with, or who were perceived to potentially interfere with, the cocaine and marijuana trafficking activities of the Gulf Cartel.

According to the indictment, from June 2006 until his arrest, Cano-Flores’s role was to oversee drug trafficking activities in Camargo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, including procuring for distribution significant quantities of cocaine, heroin and bulk marijuana. Cano-Flores also is alleged to have coordinated the movement of illegal narcotics from Mexico into the United States as well as the repatriation of drug proceeds into Mexico. The Gulf Cartel controls most of the cocaine and marijuana trafficking through the Matamoros, Mexico, corridor to the United States. Los Zetas began as the enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel, but has emerged in recent years as an independent drug trafficking organization.

On April 15, 2009, under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the President identified Los Zetas as a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker.

On July 20, 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also identified the leadership of Los Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers. Both men are named as co-defendants in the indictment charging Cano-Flores.

On July 25, 2011, an executive order was issued that blocks the transfer, payment or export of property belonging to certain transnational criminal organizations, including Los Zetas.

The department expressed its gratitude and appreciation to the government of Mexico for its cooperation and assistance in the apprehension and extradition of Cano-Flores.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted, Cano-Flores faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The investigation in this case was led by the DEA’s Houston Field Division and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit.