The media have dubbed her the Queen of the Pacific, a rare woman who allegedly reached the top of the male-dominated Colombian-Mexican drug world with her feminine mystique.
She was featured in the famous drug ballad titled The Queen of the Queens, sung by a band called Los Tucanes de Tijuana. One line in the narcocorrido captured her essence: The more beautiful the rose, the sharper the thorns.
Her name: Sandra Avila Beltrán. The raven-haired 51-year-old at least thats what her arrest form says her age is will appear in Miami federal court Tuesday for her arraignment and bond hearing. She was extradited last week from Mexico, where she had been arrested in 2007, on charges of conspiring to smuggle loads of cocaine into the United States more than a decade ago.
She is very Cleopatra-ish, like the Queen of the Nile, said Miami criminal defense attorney Lilly Ann Sanchez, who represented two other defendants in the same case. She was able to maneuver her way in a mans world and use the fact that she was a woman to her advantage in more ways than one.
Her reputation as the Queen of the Pacific was gained by her dominant role in the powerful Sinaloa cartel, her romantic relationship with a Colombian drug kingpin and her influence over ocean supply routes.
In June, after years of legal fighting, a Mexican court granted her extradition to face the U.S. narco-trafficking charges, which have alleged links to a cocaine deal in Chicago. In 2001, federal agents intercepted a telephone call in which Avila allegedly sought payment for 220 pounds of cocaine delivered in Chicago.
But her criminal defense attorney maintains Avila is innocent.
Throughout the entirety of the prosecutions investigation, Sandra has maintained she was not involved in any of the allegations against her in the indictment, said her attorney, Stephen Ralls, of Tucson, who has represented many major accused traffickers.
Both Mexican and U.S. authorities say Avila was born into the business. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, a trafficker from Guadalajara who was once considered the godfather of the Mexican drug trade. He is serving a 40-year sentence for smuggling and the 1984 murder of a U.S. drug enforcement agent, Enrique Camarena.
Avila was married twice to ex-police commanders who had swapped sides to join the drug syndicates, according to published reports. They were both murdered by hired assassins.
Avilas other romantic conquests in Mexicos Sinaloa organization and Colombias North Valley cartel dramatically raised her profile. Indeed, her longtime relationship with drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa, aka The Tiger, paved the way for the dynamic duo to cut deals between Mexican and Colombian traffickers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, authorities say.
Avilas one-time lover is the brother of the lead defendant in the indictment accusing her and six others of cocaine-conspiracy charges in Miami. His name: Leyner Valencia Espinosa. He was initially sentenced to 22 years in prison, later cut by half for his cooperation with authorities.
With her wealth, Avila ran a string of tanning salons and a real estate company with investments throughout Sonora state.
She eluded authorities for years, until they linked her to a nine-ton shipment of cocaine seized in the Pacific port of Manzanillo in 2001.