Eduardo Arellano Felix during his 2012 extradition to the United States

Eduardo Arellano Felix during his extradition to the United States in 2012. He was sentenced Monday to 15 years in federal prison. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

SAN DIEGO -- Mexican drug kingpin Eduardo Arellano Felix was sentenced Monday to 15 years in federal prison for his role in a notorious Tijuana drug cartel that over several decades transformed Baja California into a springboard for drug smuggling into the U.S.

Arellano Felix, the last of four brothers targeted for running the organized crime group, was portrayed by U.S. prosecutors as the chief financial officer who laundered tens of millions of dollars in illicit drug proceeds.

His sentence was shorter than those for his brothers Benjamin and Javier, both of whom played more brutal roles in the cartel that terrorized Mexico and murdered scores of rivals during its peak in the 1990s.  Benjamin received 25 years; Javier got a life term. Another brother, Ramon, was murdered in Mazatlan in 2002.

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns, in an account of the sentencing provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office, said Eduardo Arellano Felix was less involved in the unsavory aspects of the drug business than his brothers, but nevertheless was “still an integral part” and “fully aware of the methods” of the cartel.

Burns said Arellano Felix should be ashamed of his actions, which have had “terrible and longlasting effects” on this community and the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.       

Arellano Felix, a medical doctor who is in his late 50s, was in hiding during much of the cartel’s heyday, but emerged as a key advisor in the 2000s  as the brothers’ nephew assumed control and tried to preserve the cartel’s grip on drug trafficking into Southern California.

He was arrested in his modest cul-de-sac home in Tijuana in 2008 after a fierce shootout with Mexican army soldiers. Last year he was extradited to the U.S.

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richard.marosi@latimes.com