LOS ANGELES — A man accused of running Los Angeles operations for Mexico's notorious Arellano-Felix drug cartel pleaded guilty Monday to federal narcotics drug and money laundering charges.
Jorge Castro Gastelum, 34, faces nearly 17 years in prison under a plea agreement negotiated with prosecutors. He did not agree to cooperate with authorities in his plea agreement, however.
Castro was arrested in 1998 after a yearlong wiretap investigation that tracked him giving instructions for the delivery of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and the dispatch of drug proceeds back across the border.
Eight suspected subordinates were arrested and all but one have pleaded guilty.
Based in Tijuana, the Arellano-Felix organization is regarded as the most violent of the Mexican rings that dominate the drug trade.
In announcing the indictment of Castro and his alleged cohorts in July 1998, then-U.S. Atty. Nora Manella, now a federal judge, predicted the arrests "will significantly disrupt the domestic operations" of the Arellano-Felix organization.
Since then, however, there has been no letup in the flow of narcotics from the Arellano-Felix syndicate into Southern California, according to federal and local drug agents.
In return for Castro's guilty plea to charges of possessing cocaine for sale and money laundering, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge accusing him of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, a crime that carries a life term.
His sentencing is scheduled in March.