The accused leader of a murderous Mexican drug gang, one of the most-wanted fugitives sought by U.S. authorities, was apprehended when the U.S. Coast Guard seized a fishing boat off the coast of Baja California, the Justice Department said. 2

The accused leader of a murderous Mexican drug gang, one of the most-wanted fugitives sought by U.S. authorities, was apprehended when the U.S. Coast Guard seized a fishing boat off the coast of Baja California, the Justice Department said.

Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix, the alleged leader of a Tijuana-based drug ring, was captured after the Coast Guard, acting on information developed by U.S. drug agents, interdicted the fishing yacht “Dock Holiday” in Pacific Ocean waters 15 miles from the resort town of La Paz, the officials said.

Arellano-Felix, 36, headed what Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty described as one of the world’s most violent drug trafficking organizations. He is charged along with 10 others in a federal indictment of running a cocaine and marijuana smuggling operation responsible for 20 murders.

“We feel like we have taken the head off the snake,” Michael Braun, operations chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told reporters at a Washington news conference.

Arellano-Felix had been placed on the drug agency’s top fugitive list in 2002 along with his three brothers, the DEA said. One brother, Benjamin, is imprisoned in Mexico. Another brother, Ramon, died in a 2002 shootout with Mexican police and the third, Eduardo, is still at-large, officials said.

The arrest culminated a 14-month investigation. The indictment, unsealed in 2003, seeks forfeiture of $300 million, McNulty said.

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