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Contraband
03/07/2013

Tijuana cartel leader extradited from Mexico

Defendant also controlled major drug smuggling plaza in Tijuana

SAN DIEGO – A top-level operative for a powerful Tijuana cartel, who allegedly ran a lucrative importation cell, was extradited from Mexico Thursday to face drug charges in the Southern District of California.

Cesar Alfredo Meza-Garcia, 36, of Tijuana, was arrested by Mexican law enforcement officers Sept. 26, 2012, at the request of the United States. The charges stem from a joint probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Chula Vista Police Department.

According to court documents, Meza-Garcia is the principal defendant in an indictment charging 19 individuals with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine. Meza-Garcia was a key leader in the cartel, allegedly overseeing the movement of narcotics from Mexico into the U.S. The indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in June 2012.

The charges are the result of Operation Jackhammer II, which targeted members of Meza-Garcia's distribution cell who were responsible for smuggling methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana into Chula Vista and San Diego for distribution throughout California. Agents say Meza-Garcia also maintained control of a large drug smuggling corridor in Tijuana and charged a tax to other drug smuggling organizations to operate in the area.

"This extradition serves as a stern warning to other fugitives who think they can evade U.S. law enforcement by hiding out in Mexico," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. "I commend our Mexican law enforcement partners for their hard work. Their support was instrumental in our effort to dismantle a dangerous faction of the Tijuana cartel that operated a large meth trafficking organization on both sides of the border."

During the course of the 22-month investigation, agents arrested 91 targets and seized 200 pounds of methamphetamine with a wholesale value of up to $12,000 a pound. Agents also seized 100 pounds of cocaine and 1,800 pounds of marijuana.

Meza-Garcia is expected to be arraigned in federal court in San Diego Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan Adler. Three other fugitives are still being sought in the case.

HSI agents are seeking the public's assistance in locating fugitive defendants Salvador Alcala-Gonzales, aka Chava, Miguel Angel Bravo-Pena and Jose Luis Casillas. All three are believed to be in Mexico. Anyone with information regarding these fugitives may contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.