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September 3, 2021Los Angeles, CA, United StatesNarcotics

HSI probe leads to extradition of Mexican national who allegedly headed international cocaine trafficking organization

LOS ANGELES – The Mexican leader of a transnational drug trafficking organization arrived here this afternoon after being extradited from Mexico to face federal charges that he conspired to transport cocaine worth hundreds of millions of dollars from South America to the United States.

Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum, 47, who was initially arrested by Mexican authorities in November 2018, in Querétaro, Mexico, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon on charges contained in a 22-count indictment that accuses him of being the principal manager of a narcotics enterprise.

The indictment is the result of a coordinated effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

Chavez-Gastelum – who has been designated by the United States government as one of the world’s most-wanted drug traffickers – allegedly controlled a drug distribution network with supply routes that brought cocaine from Colombia into Central America, then to Mexico, with a final destination of the United States. During the investigation into the organization, law enforcement authorities around the world seized approximately 7,700 pounds of cocaine, with a potential U.S. street value of $500 million.

The indictment charges Chavez-Gastelum with 12 offenses, including drug trafficking, drug importation and money laundering. He is also charged with being the principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise, an offense that carries a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison.

Chavez-Gastelum is also charged with two murders on July 7, 2017, committed in connection with the alleged continuing criminal enterprise and related drug offenses.

The investigation in this case has led to the arrests of co-conspirators on three continents. The alleged Colombian leader of the organization, Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva, was captured and extradited to the United States in September 2018.

Chavez-Gastelum is the lead defendant in the indictment that charges a total of 47 defendants. With Chavez-Gastelum’s expected court appearance, a total of 22 defendants will have been arraigned in this case. A trial in this case was previously scheduled for March 15, 2022.

The investigation is being conducted under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S Attorney for the Central District of California’s International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.

HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.