U.S. denies bond for Mexico's alleged cocaine "Queenpin"

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 14, 2012 4:07 PM
U.S. denies bond for Mexico's alleged cocaine "Queenpin"

MIAMI (Reuters) - An alleged smuggler known as Mexico's "Queen of the Pacific" was ordered jailed without bond on Tuesday pending trial in Miami on cocaine conspiracy charges.

Mexico extradited defendant Sandra Avila Beltran to the United States last week. She appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White, who ruled there was a risk of flight and ordered her continued detention.

She was not asked to enter a plea and her arraignment was postponed to September 14.

Avila, 51, is the highest-profile woman linked to Mexico's drug trade. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade, who is serving a 40-year sentence for the murder of a U.S. drug enforcement agent.

Avila is accused of helping build up the Sinaloa cartel in the 1990s with the gang's leader Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman and won her nickname for allegedly pioneering smuggling routes up Mexico's Pacific Coast into California.

She was arrested in 2007 but was acquitted in Mexico on charges of smuggling more than 9 metric tons of cocaine seized in the Pacific port of Manzanillo.

"She's always maintained she was never involved in drug trafficking," said her attorney, Stephen Ralls, who will represent her at her trial in Miami.

Avila would face life in prison if convicted on the U.S. charges. The indictment charges her and six co-defendants with conspiring to smuggle an undefined amount of cocaine into the United States, and distribute it.

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Three co-defendants are relatives of her one-time boyfriend, Colombian drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa.

In a 2009 interview with journalist Anderson Cooper for "60 Minutes," she said it was "obvious and logical" that the Mexican government was involved in drug-related corruption.

More than 55,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars since President Felipe Calderon sent the army out to battle drug gangs in late 2006.

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Edited by David Adams)