Drug Lord Wanted in U.S. Captured in Mexico

Mexican authorities captured a reputed drug kingpin wanted in the United States on cocaine trafficking and money laundering charges, and ranked among the world's most-wanted fugitives, officials said Friday.

Oscar Arriola Marquez, leader of the Arriola Marquez cartel, was arrested Thursday in the northern state of Coahuila, one of three states where the organization is based, Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said.

"He is one of the drug traffickers most sought after in the United States" and among the world's 40 most-wanted fugitives, Cabeza de Vaca said.

Mexican authorities acted on a U.S. warrant for Arriola Marquez's arrest and extradition on charges of drug trafficking, introduction of cocaine into the United States and money laundering.

The Arriola Marquez cartel distributed drugs in Colombia, Venezuela and in the U.S. states of Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina and New York, Cabeza de Vaca said. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates the group has smuggled 2.2 tons of cocaine a month into the United States since 2001, he said.

The cartel's other bases were located in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon.

Mexican authorities struck their first blow to the cartel in 2003, when they seized 2.2 tons of cocaine in the central state of Aguascalientes and 1.6 tons of marijuana in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, and arrested nine alleged cartel members in Mexico City, Cabeza de Vaca said.

Four other reputed leaders of the cartel were arrested in February 2004, he said.

Arriola Marquez inherited the trafficking ring's leadership position after the capture of his brothers Raul and Miguel in September 2004, Cabeza de Vaca said. The status of his brothers' cases was not immediately clear.