A woman dubbed the “Queen of the Pacific,” who allegedly reached the top of the male-dominated Colombian-Mexican drug world with her feminine mystique, was deported back to Mexico Tuesday after being sentenced in Miami last month.
Sandra Avila Beltran, 52, was among 129 ICE detainees flown to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City and turned over to authorities.
The attractive Avila is said to have been 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.”
In Miami federal court in April, Avila pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the crime of drug trafficking and was sentenced to 70 months in prison. She was released almost immediately credited for time served in Mexico, where she had been in custody since 2007.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
In her native country Avila was charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and organized crime. In 2010, a Mexican judge acquitted her of those charges, but she was then extradited to Miami in 2012 on new charges of conspiring to smuggle loads of cocaine into the U.S. more than a decade ago.
On July 30, Avila was released from a Miami federal prison and turned over to ICE for deportation.
“The deportation of this convicted aggravated felon, as thousands of others, is the result of the robust working relationship ICE has with the government of Mexico,” said Adrian P. Macias, field office director of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso in a news release.
Both Mexican and U.S. authorities say Avila was born into the drug 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.
Avila’s other “romantic conquests” in Mexico’s Sinaloa organization and Colombia’s 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.
Avila’s 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.
Miami Herald staffer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.