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U.S. Offers $2 Million for Drug Suspect

September 25, 1997|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Relying on measures usually reserved for international terrorists, the U.S. government offered a reward of more than $2 million Wednesday for the capture of Ramon Arellano Felix, an alleged leader of the violent Tijuana drug cartel, and placed him on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Officials said his apprehension and extradition to Southern California, where he is wanted on drug conspiracy charges, would buttress what they said is growing trust and cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities.

"We don't know where he is right now, [but] we assume that he is in Mexico," FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said. "If he is arrested by the Mexican authorities, we will immediately begin negotiations to bring him back to the United States."

The last successful arrest of a major drug trafficker by Mexican authorities, followed by prosecution in the United States, was that of Juan Garcia Abrego, who was put on the FBI's Most Wanted list last year. Garcia Abrego was convicted and began serving a life sentence in February in a U.S. prison.

Naming Arellano Felix to the Most Wanted list, coupled with the reward, is designed to "turn up the heat" on a sophisticated kingpin who reputedly consorts with respected professionals in Baja California, law enforcement sources said.

The State Department--which offered reward money that led to the captures of World Trade Center bombing figure Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Mir Aimal Kansi, accused in the fatal shooting of two employees outside CIA headquarters--is providing the $2 million offered for Arellano Felix's capture from a special law enforcement fund. The FBI is adding $50,000.

Arellano Felix allegedly runs the Tijuana cartel with three brothers.

According to authorities, Arellano Felix directs security and is said to be chiefly responsible for killing about 200 Mexican law enforcement officers, government officials and others.

Times staff writer Anne-Marie O'Connor in San Diego contributed to this report.

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