Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Drug kingpin, wanted in DEA agent’s killing, arrested in Mexico

The wanted poster for Rafael Caro-Quintero.  (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Federal Bureau of Investigation/TNS)
By Nacha Cattan and John Harney Bloomberg News

A Mexican narcotics trafficker wanted in the abduction and murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1985 has been arrested, according to a law enforcement official.

Rafael Caro-Quintero, a founder of the Guadalajara cartel, was seized during a raid carried out by Mexico’s Naval Ministry in the San Simon municipality, Choix, Sinaloa on Friday, according to a government statement. Caro-Quintero was located by a specially trained tracking dog named Max.

After the operation, a navy helicopter crashed in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, killing 14 of the 15 people on board. The government said there is no evidence that the accident and arrest are connected and that the cause of the crash is under investigation.

The U.S. has long sought Caro-Quintero’s extradition over the killing of the agent, Enrique Camarena, and he was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. He was convicted of Camarena’s murder in Mexico and spent almost three decades in prison before being released in 2013.

At the time, Mexican authorities said the court that set him free had “ignored” correct legal procedures and sought to get him back into custody. But by then, Caro-Quintero had vanished.

According to the DEA’s website, Camarena, who went by Kiki, worked out of the Guadalajara Resident Office and had been “extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline,” when he was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 1985, by five armed men while on his way to meet his wife for lunch. His body was discovered on March 5.

In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn announced an indictment that accused Caro-Quintero of leading a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel and of being responsible for Camarena’s death.

The DEA and the U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon. The White House didn’t immediately comment.