SAN DIEGO (AP) – A Mexican police officer pleaded guilty Friday in a drug smuggling case and admitted he hired a fellow officer to run a hit squad on behalf of a Tijuana-based drug cartel, prosecutors said.
Carlos Cosme entered the plea in federal court in San Diego to federal racketeering and narcotics trafficking conspiracy charges, federal prosecutors said.
In his plea, Cosme said the hit squad was formed to carry out killings for the drug ring controlled by Fernando Sanchez Arellano, according to prosecutors.
Cosme was a former police officer for the Baja California State Attorney General’s Office, across the border from San Diego.
Prosecutors say he also acknowledged importing and selling several pounds of methamphetamine for the cartel.
He could face life in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 27.
Cosme’s lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.
A total of 43 defendants were named in the federal racketeering complaint alleging murder, kidnapping and other crimes. Four are still fugitives, and one is awaiting trial. About half of those arrested are U.S. citizens.
Of those indicted, four are former or current Mexican law enforcement officials. Earlier this month, the highest-ranking official indicted, Jesus Quinonez, pleaded guilty to federal racketeering and admitted to helping traffickers get away with a double homicide in 2010.
Quinonez was a primary contact in Baja for U.S. authorities fighting the drug war.
In his plea, Quinonez admitted sharing confidential information with the Fernando Sanchez Arellano drug gang while he worked as an international liaison for the Baja California State Attorney General’s Office.
He also could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Sanchez Arellano, also known as “El Ingeniero,” or “The Engineer,” is a nephew of the brothers who headed the Arellano Felix cartel, which was once Mexico’s most violent drug ring. Most of its leaders have been killed or jailed since 2002.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)