Drug 'Queen of the Pacific' returns to Mexico
A Mexican woman dubbed the "Queen of the Pacific" for her links to drug trafficking returned home Tuesday to face money laundering charges after the United States deported her.
Sandra Avila Beltran, who was convicted by a US court for helping a drug lord evade arrest, stepped off an airplane in handcuffs, with her long dark hair disheveled and graying, after landing in Mexico City on a special US flight that repatriates migrants.
After a medical check-up, Avila Beltran, who made headlines by flashing a smile to news cameras following her first arrest in 2007, was taken to a women's federal prison in the western state of Nayarit, said federal prosecutor Mariana Benitez on Twitter.
A government official had said earlier that she would be flown to the neighboring state of Jalisco to appear before a federal judge.
The official later said her money laundering case was now in the hands of a federal judge in Jalisco but that she was not jailed there because there is no female detention center in that state.
The 52-year-old woman got her nickname from a Mexican drug ballad, known as a narcocorrido, and her life in the criminal underworld inspired a soap opera.
When Mexican authorities detained her six years ago, they presented her as a member of the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel who played a key role in drug smuggling to the United States via the Pacific Ocean.
But she was acquitted in Mexico and then extradited to the United States in September 2012.
In the United States, she reached a plea deal that resulted in her conviction as an accessory after the fact in keeping her ex-boyfriend, Colombian drug trafficker Juan Diego Espinosa "El Tigre," from being apprehended.
Last month, a US judge sentenced her to 70 months in prison but then ordered her release and deportation due to time already served in Mexico and the United States.
She was transferred to an immigration center in El Paso, Texas, before being flown home under police custody along with 128 other deportees in a weekly flight that returns migrants deep into Mexico, according to US immigration authorities.
Avila Beltran has admitted having links to the cartel underworld but denies having a role in drug trafficking, insisting that she amassed her fortune through real estate and her work in fashion.
In a prison interview with journalist Julio Scherer, who wrote the book "Queen of the Pacific: Time to Talk," she said her mistake was her "circumstantial" meetings with drug lords such as Rafael Caro Quintero.
Caro Quintero, who co-founded one of the first Mexican drug cartels, was abruptly released from prison this month after serving 28 of his 40-year prison sentence for the killing of a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
She also claimed to have met Mexico's most wanted man, Sinaloa drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.