MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican soldiers detained a top operator for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, a man for whom the U.S. government had offered a reward of up to $5 million, the army said Thursday.
Suspect Ovidio Limon Sanchez is one of the most-wanted U.S. drug fugitives in Mexico, sought "for importing and distributing hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States within the last two decades," according to a U.S. State Department notice announcing the reward.
An army spokesman, Col. Ricardo Trevilla, described Limon Sanchez as "one of the most important operators" for the Sinaloa cartel. The gang, headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, is considered Mexico's most powerful trafficking organization.
Trevilla said Limon Sanchez was detained without a shot being fired in a carefully planned raid Wednesday in the city of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, which has long been considered the cradle of Mexican drug trafficking.
The stocky, unblinking Limon Sanchez, 48, was paraded before journalists in handcuffs, with masked soldiers standing on either side of him.
Limon Sanchez's detention "significantly affects the Guzman Loera criminal organization and its capacity to ship and traffick cocaine," Trevilla said.
He said Mexico detained Limon Sanchez on a U.S. extradition request and he had been turned over to civilian prosecutors.
Extradition can often be a lengthy legal process lasting years in Mexico because of appeals.
Trevilla described Limon Sanchez as a sort of all-purpose cocaine shipper based in Culiacan, who bought cocaine, shipped it through Mexico for distribution in California in the Los Angeles area.
The State Department reward notice said Limon Sanchez "organizes, manages, and distributes multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Mexico into his distribution hubs located in southern California; from there his drug trafficking organization distributes cocaine throughout the United States."
"The Limon-Sanchez trafficking organization is also responsible for transporting millions of dollars of drug proceeds in bulk currency from the United States into Mexico," it states.
An indictment issued in the Central District of California in 2009 charges Limon Sanchez with giving 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of cocaine to a distributor and on another occasion directing the distributor to deliver 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocaine to a customer.