'Woman from the sky' prosecutes cartel in SoCal

LA Times:

The Mexican drug kingpin was shackled to the railing of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter cruising up the coast of Baja California when he saw a curious sight: A hovering helicopter lowering somebody by rope onto the deck of a nearby boat.

The dangling person in the green flight suit was Laura Duffy, a federal prosecutor from San Diego. She had come after getting word that U.S. authorities had arrested the kingpin, Javier Arellano Felix, aboard his yacht on the Gulf of California.

Duffy, a blue-eyed 47-year-old, questioned Arellano Felix that day, but it was her air-drop entry that made a lasting impression. Throughout the case that culminated in 2007 with his being sentenced to life behind bars, Arellano Felix referred to Duffy as La Mujer del Cielo, the woman from the sky.

"I'm sure my client didn't realize that this young, attractive woman had immense power and authority in regards to his criminal prosecution," said David Bartick, the defense attorney for Arellano Felix.

Duffy is now the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, her handling of the sweeping case targeting the Arellano Felix drug cartel having eased her way through the appointment process with unanimous congressional approval and high expectations to keep the pressure on organized crime groups in Baja California.


Duffy, who headed the prosecution team, gets much of the credit from U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials. An Iowa-born mother of one, Duffy cut her teeth prosecuting heroin, marijuana and steroid trafficking rings before taking on the Arellano Felix case, which has lasted more than a decade.

The U.S. attorney in the Southern District, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties, is mainly responsible for managing the enormous caseload of illegal immigration prosecutions, a policy that Duffy is expected to continue.

But her high-profile experience suggests that the Obama administration wants to continue the aggressive pursuit of top Mexican drug traffickers. Duffy, who took office in June and was formally sworn in earlier this month, wasted no time establishing herself as a formidable force.

Flanked by top federal and local law enforcement officials at her first news conference in July, she announced an indictment targeting the remnants of the Arellano Felix cartel. The investigation snared 31 suspects, including a top Baja California state law enforcement official who was arrested in San Diego on his way to a meeting with his U.S. counterparts.

There is more.

The story gives some credit to rival gangs for the demise of the Felix cartel, but that could be said of most of the cartels who are constantly fighting each other over control of corridors into the US. The Felix cartel was trying to control the I-5 corridor which fed California and the rest of the West Coast.

I think she was a good selection by the Obama administration. I wish they had more like her. I do like the audacity of the chopper drop on to the boat too.


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