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Cartel head ‘La Reina’ deported

A Mexican drug queen being held in El Paso has been deported.

Sandra Avila-Beltran, also know as “La Reina Del Pacifico” or “Queen of the Pacific” arrived in El Paso last week after being held nearly six years in a federal prison.

Avila-Beltran boarded a plane with dozens of other Mexican nationals being deported.

There was a heavy law enforcement presence at the El Paso International Airport early Tuesday morning.

Federal officials said they will all be flown to Mexico City.

Mexican and U.S. officials once considered Avila-Beltran an important link between the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and a Colombian cartel.

Avila Beltran, known for her good looks and saucy attitude when she was arrested in 2007, looked haggard and had gray streaks in her once-black hair in a photograph published by local media when she was taken off a plane at the Mexico City airport.

She wasn’t seen again, and the Attorney General’s Office later said in a statement that she had been quickly whisked off to a prison in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit to await trial on the money-laundering charge.

She was given a quick medical checkup at the Mexico City airport, where she arrived on a chartered flight that flew in migrants being repatriated to Mexico from El Paso, Texas.

Avila, 52, has been in custody since 2007 when she was charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and organized crime. A Mexican judge acquitted her of those charges in December 2010, but she remained in custody and was extradited to the U.S. a year ago.

She pleaded guilty in April to being an accessory after the fact in a criminal organization that included Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, her boyfriend at the time.

Espinosa pleaded guilty in 2009 to cocaine trafficking charges. A statement signed by Avila said she provided money to Espinosa for travel and lodging so he could evade arrest by authorities between 2002 and 2004.

Avila was sentenced to 70 months in prison in U.S. District Court in Miami last month and released almost immediately for time served in Mexico.

Mexico had used a little-known bilateral agreement that allows prosecutors to suspend local charges, extradite a suspect to the United States for trial, and then reactivate the charges once the suspect returns.

Her lawyer, Jorge Alfonso Espino, said Avila Beltran no longer faces organized crime charges.

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