A former Mexican liaison officer who worked closely with U.S. law enforcement was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to passing on sensitive information to organized crime members in Tijuana, federal authorities said.
Jesus Quiñonez Marquez, 51, the former top liaison official for the Baja California attorney general's office, was arrested in 2010 as part of a wide-ranging investigation targeting the remnants of the Arellano Felix drug cartel.
Quiñonez, in his plea agreement, admitted that he provided information to help crime bosses avoid arrest in a double homicide case in Tijuana. He also admitted to conspiring to launder $13 million in drug money. He was allegedly overheard in the wiretap investigation talking with a top lieutenant of Fernando Sanchez Arellano, the reputed head of the Arellano Felix organization.
Quiñonez once was a trusted liaison officer who met regularly with his U.S. counterparts in Tijuana and San Diego, sharing information on drug investigations and helping track down fugitives in Mexico. He was arrested in San Diego after a traffic stop.
Quiñonez was the second Baja California liaison officer to be arrested in recent years. Javier Cardenas, the longtime liaison for the Tijuana Police Department, was arrested in 2009 for alleged organized crime links.
The case illustrates the delicate nature of cooperation between Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration. Although cross-border relations have improved significantly in recent years, U.S. liaison officers still limit what they disclose to their Mexican counterparts. The information that Quiñonez passed to criminals didn't put anyone's safety at risk, federal authorities said.