Apr 9, 2013 6:47 PM
TUCSON - A suspected high ranking drug cartel member appears in a Tucson court room today.
Rafael Araiza was just extradited from Mexico last week. He's charged in a 65 count indictment that includes, money laundering, drug trafficking and unlawful use of wire communications.
A "not guilty plea" was entered.
Araiza is suspected of being a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel, considered Mexico's most violent and dangerous cartel. He's one of 18 defendants indicted in 2010.
According to Assistant Attorney General Nanette Morrow, Araiza was head of the organization.
"He was the one on the Mexican side coordinating the drugs coming over the border and then getting here and up to its destination in the Las Vegas area."
The drugs were smuggled through the Tohono O'odham nation. Prosecutors say an Army reservist helped transport the dope to avoid suspicion. "One of the gentleman was an active national guard member and he did wear his uniforms to assist him pass the border patrol checkpoints."
In this Tucson Police investigation undercover officers seized $500,000 worth of cash and jewelry, in addition to the marijuana and vehicles.
The message the attorney general's office is sending to cartel members, "They cannot run to Mexico and hide from the United States they're going face their charges if they commit crimes here."
According the Morrow, the majority of the players in the this case have plead guilty and have been sentenced, including the Army reservist. There are still arrest warrants out for others.