Mexican cartel queen, Sandra Avila Beltran, also known as Queen of the Pacific, pled guilty to helping the former head of a Mexican drug cartel evade arrest for two years in a case involving major cocaine trafficking between Colombia, Mexico and the United States.
Avila, 52, admitted to "hindering the arrest" of then-boyfriend, Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, who was the former leader of Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. Espinosa was a liaison between the Sinaloa cartel and Colombia's Norte Valle cartel and plead guilty to cocaine trafficking charges in 2009.
Much of the Colombia's cocaine enters the United States through Mexico, making the Sinaloa and Norte Valle connection crucial to major drug trafficking.
Among the accusations that Avila faced in court were charges that she was an accessory in the Sinaloa cartel because she helped Espinosa evade arrest. "Between approximately 2002 and 2004, Avila-Beltran provided financial assistance for travel, lodging and other expenses to [Espinosa] with the intention of preventing or hindering his arrest for drug-trafficking crimes," said a US attorney's office statement.
According to the BBC, Avila is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as The Godfather of U.S. drug trafficking in the '80s.
The Mexican cartel queen has been imprisoned since 2007, and was extradited from Mexico last August to a facility in Miami. After accepting a plea deal, Avila is facing up to 15 years of prison from when she was sentenced on July 25, although she is expected to receive a lesser term in lieu of the time she has already served.
Avila, who was arrested in Mexico City in September 2007, staunchly denied the money laundering and drug trafficking charges she was initially charged with, arguing that selling clothes and renting houses provided her source of income.
After being extradited to the U.S. despite a legal battle against the decision, the Mexican cartel queen was relocated to a Florida prison where she faced cocaine possession and trafficking charges.
Howard Schumacher, Avila's attorney told the Miami Herald that he and his client were content with the outcome of the lengthy case. "Both sides felt the charge of accessory after the fact would be reflective of a fair and just result," Schumacher said.