Big Shot Busted at LAX –
Oct. 16, 2020 – Cienfuegos, arrested at Los Angeles airport on Thursday, took bribes in return for protection that included warning cartel members about U.S. investigations, according to prosecutors in New York who have charged the 72-year-old with four counts of drug trafficking and money laundering.
“In exchange for bribe payments, he permitted the H-2 Cartel – a cartel that routinely engaged in wholesale violence, including torture and murder – to operate with impunity in Mexico,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
The H-2 Cartel is a name for a remnant of the Beltran-Leyva gang.
Cienfuegos served from 2012 to 2018 in the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, several of whose aides and party members are now accused of high level corruption. Pena Nieto has denied allegations he took a cartel bribe.
The detention comes less than three weeks before the U.S. presidential election. President Donald Trump, seeking a second term, has made clamping down on drug cartels a priority, though without major progress since he took office in 2017.
The arrest of Cienfuegos – nicknamed El Padrino, or The Godfather, in an August 2019 indictment that was sealed until he was in U.S. custody – marked the first time a former Mexican defense minister has been indicted and detained.