Mexico’s ‘Queen of Pacific’ faces new charges

Sandra Ávila Beltrán, dubbed the “Queen of the Pacific” by the Mexican media, arrived Aug. 21 at the Federal Social Readaptation Center (CEFERESO) Number 4 in Tepic, Nayarit, days after she was extradited to Mexico from the US. The transfer came after a US judge in Maimi gave her credit for time served on the basis of five years she spent behind bars in Mexico and another year awaiting sentencing in Florida. She was arrested upon her arrival back in Mexico, to face new charges of money-laundering on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Avila Beltran was detained in Mexico City in September 2007, and was extradited to the US last year, pleading guilty to involvement in a trafficking organization led by Colombian kingpin Juan Diego Espinosa Ramírez AKA “El Tigre,” her boyfriend at the time. A cousin of notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was recently freed from prison, Ãvila Beltrán is a much-sensationalized figure, who allegedly forged links between Mexican and Colombian cartels through her sexual liaisons. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, a legendary founder of the Guadalajara Cartel who is serving a 40-year sentence in Mexico for drug smuggling and the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Another uncle, Juan José Quintero Payán AKA “Don Juanjo,” is serving a prison sentence in the US.  

Before her extradition to the US, she appears to have been well-connected with Mexico’s political establishment, receiving favorable treatment even behind bars. In February 2011, the director of the prison where she was being held, Santa Martha Acatitla in the Federal District, was sacked after it emerged that a doctor had been allowed into her cell to give her botox injections. (Excélsior, Aug. 21; BBC News, AP, NTR, Aug. 20; Sexenio, July 29; The Telegraph, InSight Crime, July 26; Daily News, April 27; APRO, Dec. 8, 2011; Jezebel, Feb. 2, 2011; Notimex, Sept. 28, 2007)

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