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U.S. deports drug cartel 'queen' to Mexico

The airplane transporting Sandra Avila Beltran, also known as "The Queen of the Pacific", lands at the Benito Juarez International airport i
The airplane transporting Sandra Avila Beltran, also known as "The Queen of the Pacific", lands at the Benito Juarez International airport i

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday deported a Mexican drug smuggler, known as the "Queen of the Pacific", after she served out a jail term, handing her over to authorities in Mexico to face separate money laundering charges.

Sandra Avila Beltran, 52, was originally arrested in Mexico in 2007 and allegedly helped build the Sinaloa cartel in the 1990s with Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman - Mexico's most-wanted drug boss. She was extradited to the United States in August 2012.

Avila Beltran is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as the godfather of the Mexican drug trade, who is serving a 40-year sentence in a Mexican prison for the murder of a U.S. drug enforcement agent.

Avila Beltran won her nickname for developing smuggling routes along Mexico's Pacific Coast into California.

A Florida judge sentenced her to 70 months in prison after she admitted to providing money to a former Colombian drug lord to help him avoid arrest.

After serving her sentence in prisons in both Mexico and the United States, she was deported to Mexico City, where she was immediately taken into custody on the money laundering charges.

Her detention came just days after the United States voiced outrage at Mexico's release of drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero, who was freed after serving nearly three decades of a 40-year sentence for ordering the 1985 murder of undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena.

The ruling was a blow to the DEA and the United States has asked Mexico to detain Caro Quintero, whose whereabouts are unknown, to face justice on U.S. soil.

Caro Quintero's lawyer is seeking the release of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, who ran the Guadalajara cartel with Caro Quintero, and was convicted and imprisoned for planning the abduction and murder of Camarena, the DEA agent, with Gallardo.

Gallardo's lawyers are expected to follow a similar legal course to try to secure his release, in a potential headache for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's dealings with his northern neighbor.

Avila Beltran was among 129 detainees turned over by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to authorities in Mexico on Tuesday, the U.S. agency said.

A judge in the Mexican state of Jalisco wants Avila Beltran to face money laundering charges, said a spokesman for Mexico's attorney general's office.

(Reporting by Anahi Rama in Mexico City and David Adams in Miami; Writing by Simon Gardner; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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