SAN DIEGO (AP) — The last of four brothers accused of creating an infamous Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to helping send hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from the United States.
Eduardo Arellano Felix, 56, was sentenced under terms spelled out in a plea agreement struck with prosecutors in May. It marks one of the final milestones in an investigation that began two decades ago.
The Tijuana-based Arellano Felix family moved hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico and Colombia and profited hundreds of millions of dollars, authorities say.
The family slowly lost its grip along California's border with Mexico over the past decade, while the Sinaloa cartel emerged as the most powerful group in the highly coveted corridor for bringing drugs to the United States.
Eduardo Arellano Felix was extradited from Mexico in August 2012 to face charges in San Diego. He was arrested in October 2008 in a shootout with Mexican authorities at his Tijuana home that was witnessed by his 11-year-old daughter.
Benjamin Arellano Felix, described by U.S. and Mexican authorities as the cartel's mastermind, was sentenced to 25 years in U.S. prison last year after being extradited from Mexico, where he was arrested in 2002. Ramon Arellano Felix, the cartel's top enforcer, was killed in a shootout with Mexican authorities in 2002.
Another brother, Francisco Javier, was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison after the U.S. Coast Guard captured him in a fishing boat in international waters off Mexico's Baja California coast.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, who built her career on the Arellano Felix investigation, said the three living brothers terrorized the border for decades, ordering assassinations and corrupting countless public officials.
They are "now confined to maximum-security prison cells for a very long time," Duffy said. "I urge others who aspire to take their place to take note."