EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The government of Mexico has extradited to the United States a former La Linea cartel leader to face long-standing drug charges.

According to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, Carlos Arturo Quintana, a.k.a. “El 80,” was put on an airplane under the custody of U.S. agents at the Toluca International Airport and flown to the United States late last week. He is wanted by a federal district court in New Mexico for allegedly supervising drug exports from the state of Chihuahua to the United States.

Mexican media report that Quintana was in charge of enforcement for La Linea in Western Chihuahua and has engaged in deadly skirmishes with cells of the Sinaloa cartel, namely the Gente Nueva faction. He also gained notoriety in 2017 for hanging signs from bridges threatening police, the press and then-new Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral. Quintana was arrested in Mexico in 2018.

Carlos Arturo Quintana “El 80” (File photo Government of Mexico)

Quintana is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry H. Ritter in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Quintana and other leaders of La Linea have been under indictment in the U.S. since December 2012 for their role in a conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. A superseding indictment in July 2014 expanded those charges to include conspiracy, attempted kidnapping, operating a continuing criminal enterprise, and aiding and abetting. A third superseding indictment further expanded the charges in July 2015.

Alleged La Linea current leader Jesus Venzor Salas Aguayo, a.k.a. “Chuyin,” is also named in the indictments.

Court documents shed light on Juarez cartel operations

Further superseding indictments shed light on the day-to-day operations of the faction that has taken over the old Juarez cartel, which once controlled drug trafficking in much of Mexico.

The Juarez cartel was headed by local trafficker Rafael Aguilar Guajardo until he was murdered in Cancun in 1993. Court documents suggest his murder was “an inside job” by his top lieutenant, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Carrillo became known as “The Lord of the Skies” for using large airplanes to bring drugs into Mexico from Central and South America, and under his leadership, the Juarez cartel “grew immensely,” court documents show. The cartel exported multi-ton quantities of cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs into the U.S.

Carrillo died while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997 and his younger brother, Vicente, took over. Vicente Carrillo formalized an alliance with the Zetas cartel of Tamaulipas and the two groups conducted paramilitary training in Chihuahua and elsewhere, documents show.

Vicente Carrillo was on the losing side of a war with the Sinaloa cartel in the late 2000s and early 2010s and has since been arrested by Mexican authorities and remains in custody.

The documents described Salas Aguayo as the day-to-day leader of the organization, with operational control over drug distribution, revenue collection, communication with corrupt government officials and enforcement. “Suspected theft, cooperation with the police, sloppy work or careless handling (of drugs) by any person within the process is dealt with harshly,” the documents state.

The group was known to use three cities – Juarez, Palomas and Ojinaga – as its main springboard for drug smuggling into the United States, according to the indictments.

In addition, Salas Aguayo allegedly controlled a dozen “plaza” bosses that served as regional managers for the cartel in as many cities all over Chihuahua.

Though U.S. authorities today report marijuana seizures on the way down, the cartel as of a few years ago was still hiring farmers in Indigenous communities in Chihuahua to grow the crop, paying them not in money but rather providing the tribes with food, clothing blankets, medical supplies and even health care workers, documents show.

The tribes allegedly grow the marijuana under the supervision and protection of the cartel. Trucks transport the product from clandestine farms in the mountains to ranches for processing and to be placed in sacks. The ready-to-export drug is sent to border cities for smuggling into the United States.

Federal authorities said the cartel received “hundreds of millions of dollars” in gross receipts for their operations during the period covered by the indictments.

Other defendants named in the indictments in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico include Elmy Hermosillo Trujillo, Raul Corella Hernandez, Jorge Adrian Ortega Gallegos, Guadalupe A. Prieto, Jesus Isaac Rodriguez Contreras, Claudio Rene Rojo Nevarez, Jorge Olivas Nevarez, Guillermo Castillo Rubio and Marco Antonio Guzman Zuniga.