The US government has underlined the high priority it still gives to veteran drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero by including his common-law wife among alleged traffickers listed within the Kingpin Act.
According to a statement released on Wednesday by the treasury department, Diana Espinoza Aguila, also known as Altagracia Espinoza Aguila, "acts on behalf" of Caro Quintero "by holding certain assets and conducting activities on his behalf."
Caro Quintero, considered one of the pioneers of Mexican drug trafficking, spent 28 years of a 40-year sentence in a Mexican jail for the 1985 torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. His early release in August 2013 on a technicality triggered a storm of protest from the US, and fury within the DEA where he is hated with particular intensity.
The 63-year-old is now, once again, a fugitive from Mexican justice. The DEA is also currently offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his recapture.
The treasury department claims that Espinoza met Caro Quintero while the two were both in jail. She was arrested, it says, in 2008 with her then husband, a Colombian drug trafficker, and was convicted of trafficking and money laundering herself.
The statement does not say when Espinoza was released from jail and became, according to DEA Deputy Administrator Jack Riley "a key enabler and facilitator for Caro Quintero and his vicious global drug trafficking and money laundering regime."
Shortly prior to his release from jail and disappearance, the treasury department surprised many by claiming that Caro Quintero remained a major force in Mexico's drug trafficking scene by including several of his relatives in the Kingpin Act. The act bans any US citizen or company from financial relations with individuals or companies linked to the people it lists.
Caro Quintero was one of the founders of the Guadalajara cartel in the 1970s, considered to be Mexico's first real drug trafficking organization and which had close ties to Pablo Escobar.
After the Guadalajara cartel fell apart in the early '90s, many of its younger members went on to form their own organizations — including the Sinaloa cartel, the Juarez cartel in Ciudad Juárez, and the Arellano Felix organization in Tijuana.
Since leaving prison, the veteran drug lord has reputedly regained his status as an on-the-ground player in the Sinaloa cartel, thanks to his tutelage of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada in the '70s and '80s.
El Chapo Guzmán is currently incarcerated in a Mexican prison in Juárez just across the border from Texas. He has been in prison since he was arrested in January after a massive manhunt unleashed after his spectacular jailbreak six months before. He was moved there early Saturday morning amidst speculation that he may soon be extradited.
El Mayo Zambada remains a fugitive with a huge reward for his capture.
Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter: @ngjanowitz