MEXICO EXTRADITES DRUG BOSS TO US: LAWYER

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MEXICO CITY, May 24, 2012 (AFP) – Mexico has extradited drug boss Sergio Villarreal, known as “El Grande” or “The Big One,” to the United States, where he will face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Villarreal’s lawyer said he was sent by plane on Tuesday to the United States, where he will face trial in the Southern District of Texas.

Mexican authorities captured Villarreal in September 2010 in the central city of Puebla, accusing him of being a senior member of the once-powerful Beltran Leyva gang, now allied with the feared Zetas cartel.

Villarreal, also known as “King Kong” and “The Giant,” was one of the most wanted drug kingpins at the time he was captured.

Mexico has been gripped by a brutal drug war pitting powerful cartels against one another and the military and police, with some 50,000 people believed to have been killed since the launch of a massive crackdown in 2006.

Three of the four top leaders of the Beltran Leyva gang were killed or captured in 2008-2010, leaving only Hector Beltran Leyva, brother of the group’s deceased founder, at large.

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