The man suspected of reaching the upper echelons of the Sinaloa Cartel pleaded not guilty to federal drug charges against him Friday.
Security was heavy at the first U.S. court appearance of Jose Rodrigo Arechiga-Gamboa, 34. Spectators had to pass through a metal detector directly outside the San Diego courtroom in addition to the initial screening everyone is subject to at the courthouse entrance.
Armed U.S. Marshals guarded Arechiga-Gamboa, who prosecutors say was a violent enforcer for the Sinaloa drug cartel.
A federal grand jury indictment accuses Arechiga-Gamboa – a.k.a. “Chino Antrax – of conspiring to import and distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.
Arechiga-Gamboa also served as a leader of a Sinaloa enforcement group called “Los Antrax,” prosecutors say.
The suspect was able to avoid capture using plastic surgery to change his appearance, trying to alter his fingerprints and traveling under the name of a deceased person.
But finally, law enforcement in the Netherlands caught the man traveling as “Norberto Sicairos-Garcia” and positively identified him as Arechiga-Gamboa.
After appearances in Dutch court, the suspected cartel leader was ordered to be extradited to San Diego, where he arrived Thursday before his Friday arraignment.
There, a federal prosecutor argued that the defendant should be held without bail because he’s a danger to the public and a flight risk.
Arechiga-Gamboa waived his right to a detention hearing and was scheduled to appear in court again on Aug. 22 for a motions hearing.