A Mexican drug lord who kidnapped, tortured and murdered a DEA agent and was then mistakenly released from prison has joined the FBI’s top ten most wanted list with a $20million reward for his capture, officials announced on Thursday.
Rafael Caro Quintero, 65, has controlled the notorious Sinaloa Cartel alongside Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada Garcia since the arrest of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in 2016, who is due to stand trial in New York this April.
He was released from a Mexican prison in 2013 while serving a 40-year sentence for the 1985 killing of DEA agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena, 37, who had a hole drilled in his skull while being injected with amphetamines to keep him alive.
Rafael Caro Quintero, 65, (pictured left in 2016) is wanted over the kidnap and murder of DEA agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena, 37 (pictured right in an undated photo)
Caro Quintero, known as the ‘narco of narcos’, is considered as one of the godfathers of Mexican drug trafficking and was one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to the United States in the late 1970s.
In 1984, Mexican authorities raided Caro Quintero’s 2,500-acre marijuana plantation, depriving him of an estimated annual production of $8 billion. Furious, the drug baron, then a member of the Guadalajara cartel, blamed Kiki for the raid.
The following year, when the DEA agent was close to uncovering a million-dollar drug pipeline from Mexico to the United States, he was kidnapped in daylight while on the way to meet his wife, allegedly on direct orders from Caro-Quintero.
Kiki’s body was found a month later dumped in a rural area outside the town of La Angostura in the state of Michoacán. His ribs, nose, jaw, cheekbones and skull had been crushed, and a hole drilled into his head.
Quintero alongside heavily-armed police officers in Guadalajara, western Mexico, on January 29, 2005. He was arrested in April 1985 for overseeing Kiko’s murder
The presence of amphetamines and other drugs in his system suggested he had been injected with them by his captives in order to keep him alive and prolong the torture.
Also on Thursday, federal officials unsealed an additional indictment against Caro Quintero – also known as RCQ – accusing him of trafficking in methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana from 1980 until 2017.
Caro Quintero was released from a Mexican prison in 2013 after serving 28 years of a 40-year sentence for the torture and murder of Camarena, whose Mexican pilot, Alfredo Zavala, was also killed.
A judge freed Caro Quintero on a legal technicality, angering US authorities, which have requested his extradition to answer charges filed in a California court in 1991, including for Kiki’s murder and kidnapping.
The Mexican government also slammed the ruling, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court. Two other drug capos remain in prison over the murder.
Caro Quintero has been in hiding since his release, but has surfaced several times to deny involvement in Kiki’s murder and insist he has abandoned criminal activity.
Kiki was kidnapped in daylight while on the way to meet his wife, Mika, allegedly on direct orders from Caro-Quintero. He is pictured with Mika on their wedding day, and in another undated photo, right
Marine Corps pallbearers carry the casket holding Kiki’s body as it arrived at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego on March 8, 1985
‘I was a drug trafficker 31 years ago, and from that moment I am telling you that when I lost the crops from… there I ended that activity,’ he told Mexican magazine Proceso in 2016.
‘Never have I exercised it [since] and I’m not going to do it. I stopped being a drug trafficker and I say to you again: Please, leave me in peace.’
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said the most-wanted list is ‘one of our most valuable tools,’ and that 484 of the 518 fugitives who have been on the list have been captured.
Russ Ellersick, an FBI agent who is tasked with dismantling the Sinaloa Cartel, said: ‘Caro-Quintero had tremendous power three decades ago, and he still has power today.
‘Our objective all along has been to investigate RCQ’s current activities but also to hold him accountable for Special Agent Camarena’s murder.’
Caro Quintero, pictured in his youth, has been in hiding since his release, but has surfaced several times to deny involvement in Kiki’s murder
Caro Quintero (pictured in undated photos released by the FBI) is believed to be in hiding in Mexico. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: ‘Special Agent Camarena was devoted to stopping drug trafficking and breaking the cycle of drug-related crime.
‘He showed tremendous courage to pursue the most violent drug traffickers, and it is because of his courage and his selflessness that we’re not going to stop looking for Caro-Quintero until we find him and put him back behind bars where he belongs.’
The announcement to add Caro-Quintero to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was made today during a press conference at DEA Headquarters near Washington, D.C.
‘The reward in this case represents a serious amount of money,’ noted FBI Special Agent Mike Rollins, another Seattle-based agent involved in the investigation.
Caro Quintero is pictured speaking to the Huff Post in 2016, and in another undated file photo released by the FBI
‘Together with the significant publicity that always surrounds a Top Ten fugitive announcement, the $20 million reward will put RCQ on notice, along with his inner circle and others who might be helping him: The United States government is committed to his capture and won’t rest until he is in custody.’
Ellersick added that US investigators have received strong support from Mexican law enforcement authorities. ‘Drug dealers are destroying their country,’ he said, ‘and the Mexican authorities are motivated to help bring RCQ in.’
Caro-Quintero is believed to be in hiding in Mexico. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
If you have information regarding the fugitive, call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov.