Sonora Cartel

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Sonora Cartel
Founded byMiguel Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, Rafael Caro Quintero
Founding locationMexico
Years active1980s−present
TerritoryHermosillo, Agua Prieta, Guadalajara, Culiacán, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Arizona, Texas, California, Nevada
Ethnicitymostly Mexican
Criminal activitiesDrug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, murder and arms trafficking
AlliesColombian drug cartels, Guadalajara Cartel

The Sonora Cartel, also known as Caro Quintero Organization, is a Mexico based criminal cartel.[1][2][3] Upon the cartel's disintegration, its leaders are incorporated into the Tijuana Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel.[2]

The Sonora Cartel, Colima Cartel and Milenio Cartel are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel.[4]


The Sonora Cartel was considered by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be one of the oldest and best-established cartels. The cartel′s roots are in the Guadalajara Cartel, which dissolved after the 1989 arrest of its co-founder, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo.

Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel's brother, was in jail for his role in the killing of DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in 1985. The Sonora cartel had direct links to Colombian drug cartels and operated routes into California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada.[5]

The Sonora cartel was headed by Miguel Caro Quintero and operated out of Hermosillo, Agua Prieta, Guadalajara and Culiacán, as well as the Mexican states of San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa and Sonora.

The Sonora Cartel was led by Miguel Caro Quintero, brother to Guadalajara Cartel co-founder, Rafael Caro Quintero, who was arrested in Costa Rica in 1985 in connection with the torture and death of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena.[1] Miguel Caro Quintero would eventually be arrested in 1989, however it is believed he still maintains control over the organization from behind bars.[1][6]


The Sonora Cartel is believed to be one of the earliest cartels to begin shipping cocaine from Colombia, particularly from the Cali Cartel. The cartel was involved in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana primarily, however secondary functions include the transportation and distribution of methamphetamine.[1][2][3]

Operating out of northern central Mexico, the cartel was believed to smuggle drugs into Arizona, Texas and California from a network of ranches along the northern border region where the drugs are stored prior to shipment. The Sonora Cartel has been specifically linked to operating out of Hermosillo, Agua Prieta, Guadalajara, Culiacán, San Luis Potosí, Durango, Sinaloa and Sonora.[2][5]

Miguel Caro Quintero[edit]

Miguel Caro Quintero was born in Caborca, Sonora, Mexico, in 1963. Previously arrested in 1992 on charges of tax evasion, he was found not guilty, which the DEA attributes to the use of threats and bribes by Caro Quintero. While imprisoned, it is believed Caro Quintero was still running the Sonora Cartel, where he is purging a prison sentence for racketeering, drug smuggling and money laundering. Caro Quintero was arrested in December 2001 in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. Prior to his arrest he repeatedly stated he is innocent of the charges and has accused the DEA of pursuing a vendetta against him for his brother, Rafael Caro Quintero's, alleged role in the death of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena. Miguel Caro Quintero is noted as having called into a radio station to profess his innocence, stating: "If I had a cartel, I'd have a lot of money and my brother wouldn't be there (in jail)" and claiming to be an innocent rancher. He further stated he does not believe his brother was involved in the killing of the DEA agent.[2][3]

Rafael Caro Quintero[edit]

Rafael Caro Quintero is the co-founder, with Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, of the Guadalajara Cartel and Sonora Cartel. He was arrested in Costa Rica on April 4, 1985, for the kidnapping, torture and murder of federal agent Enrique Camarena, and was also charged with violent crimes in aid of racketeering, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine, murder, continuing criminal enterprise.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Richards, James R. (1998). Transnational Criminal Organizations, Cybercrime, and Money Laundering. CRC Press. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-8493-2806-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jesse Helms, ed. (1999). Mexican and American Responses to the International Narcotics Threat. U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics and Terrorism of the Committee on Foreign Relations. pp. 61, 136, 137. ISBN 978-0-7881-8008-8.
  3. ^ a b c Weiner, Tim (December 22, 2001). "Suspect in Vast Drug Ring Held in Mexico; May Be Sent to U.S." New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  4. ^ "Mexico and the Drug Cartels". Foreign Policy Research Institute. August 2007. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2010-09-19. |first= missing |last= (help)
  5. ^ a b "DEA - Publications - Congressional Testimony - 09/12/96". United States Drug Enforcement Administration. September 12, 1996. Archived from the original on October 8, 1999. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  6. ^ Liddick, Donald R. (2004). The Global Underworld: Transnational Crime and the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-275-98074-0.
  7. ^ 'Wanted' poster. Archived 2009-08-27 at the Wayback Machine