Extradited Mexican drug kingpin Beltrán Leyva pleads not guilty in Washington, D.C.

An accused leader of a Mexican drug-trafficking cartel pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday after being extradited to the United States.

Alfredo Beltrán Leyva was held without bond during his first court appearance and faces a detention hearing on Friday.

U.S. and Mexican authorities say Beltrán Leyva, who was extradited Saturday to face federal prosecution, led a drug gang with his brothers that trafficked narcotics including cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine to the United States and Europe.

A one-count indictment accuses Beltrán Leyva, also identified in court papers as "Mochomo," of conspiring to import to the U.S. more than 11 pounds of cocaine, 110 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of heroin and 2,000 pounds of marijuana. He entered the not guilty plea through his court-appointed lawyer.

When Beltrán Leyva was arrested in 2008, he was alleged to be a top lieutenant of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, commanding squads of hit men and organizing drug shipments north.

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The gang split from Sinaloa and later had its stronghold between Acapulco and the south of Mexico City, while retaining some drug routes in western Mexico. They were known particularly for infiltrating or buying off government officials and police.

The Beltrán Leyva gang started to split apart in late 2009, when one brother, Arturo, who took over for Alfredo, was shot dead by Mexican marines and another brother, Carlos, was detained two weeks later. Another brother, Hector, was arrested in San Miguel de Allende in October.

The cartel has distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of dangerous narcotics and engaged in a campaign of violence that sparked drug wars and jeopardized public safety across North America, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement.

With the takedown of the Beltrán Leyva leadership, the cartel has splintered into untold numbers of gangs that terrorize central and southern Mexico, including the states of Morelos and Guerrero south of Mexico City.

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