By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A kingpin from Mexico's Sinaloa drugs cartel whose boasting on social media may have led to his arrest pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import tons of cocaine and marijuana on Wednesday in federal court in San Diego.
Jose Rodrigo Arechiga-Gamboa, 34, known as "Chino Antrax," was arrested in Amsterdam in December 2013 and extradited to the United States in July 2014.
In his plea agreement, Arechiga-Gamboa admitted he led efforts to smuggle tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico on behalf of the cartel.
He also admitted he ordered and took part in cartel-related violence, and that he was a member of "Los Antrax," a heavily armed group of Sinaloa enforcers and assassins.
Arechiga-Gamboa used social media to post images of himself, with his face blurred out, with beautiful women, gold-plated firearms, Italian sports cars and other luxuries in locations all over the world.
In one Instagram photo, he sneaked into a television interview and stood behind Paris Hilton.
Following his arrest, it was widely speculated that the vanity images Arechiga-Gamboa posted online helped agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency track him down.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Arechiga-Gamboa is one of the most senior Sinaloa kingpins prosecuted in the United States.
"While we know that the world's most powerful drug syndicate continues to operate, we also know that it is under intense pressure after a succession of high-impact, high-profile arrests and indictments of the organization's highest-ranking players," Duffy said in a statement.
Sinaloa co-founder Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman is in a Mexican prison after being arrested last year, and several other leading figures in the cartel, including the sons of co-founder Ismael Zambada Garcia, are also in U.S. or Mexican custody.
Arechiga-Gamboa has agreed to forfeit $1 million and prosecutors are not recommending that he face any additional fines, according to court documents.
He faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 16.
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)