Ex-Mexican Defense Minister Appears Before U.S. Magistrate Judge in L.A.


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Mexican defense minister who was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges was ordered detained today and will be transported to New York to face trial.

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda -- Mexico's defense minister from 2012 to 2018 -- was arrested Thursday night after arriving at LAX with several family members, becoming the first high-ranking military official to be taken into custody in the United States in connection with drug-related corruption in his country.

A four-count indictment unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn accuses the 72-year-old retired general of drug trafficking and money laundering, alleging he allowed a drug-trafficking cartel to operate in Mexico in exchange for bribes.

Cienfuegos, nicknamed El Padrino, or The Godfather, appeared by video from a downtown Los Angeles holding facility for the 15-minute detention hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander MacKinnon ordered Cienfuegos to remain in custody pending trial. The defendant waived a removal hearing, and will be transported to the Eastern District of New York to face trial, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Photo: Getty Images

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