A top drug cartel lieutenant arrested in Mexico has been extradited to San Diego to face federal racketeering and drug charges according to federal prosecutors.
Armando Villareal-Heredia, aka Gordo Villareal, is the main defendant in a case against the Fernando Sanchez-Arellano Organization.
Villareal, 33, was arrested in July 2011 and has been held by Mexican authorities pending extradition.
He is due to face charges in a downtown federal courtroom Thursday.
So far, 38 other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case admitting to murders, kidnappings, robberies, assaults, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Prosecutors allege Villareal is a top-lieutenant in a criminal organization that evolved from the now-defunct Arellano-Felix Organization and is headed by the nephew of Benjamin and Javier Arellano-Felix.
Four defendants are fugitives and the only other remaining in-custody defendant is scheduled for trial on June 5, 2012.
The indictment in this case resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the multi-agency San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force (CBVTF) and included officers from San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Marshals and the Drug Enforcement Administration, San Diego.
If convicted on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances he could face life in prison.