A founding member of a Mexican drug cartel charged with kidnapping and murdering a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1985 has been named to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and one of the highest rewards in the history of the program—$20 million—is being offered for information leading to his capture.
Rafael Caro-Quintero, known as RCQ and considered a godfather of Mexican drug trafficking, was one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to the United States in the late 1970s. In 1984, Mexican authorities raided a sprawling marijuana plantation owned by Caro-Quintero, and he blamed undercover DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena for the raid.
The following year, Camarena was close to uncovering a million-dollar drug pipeline from Mexico to the United States, but before he was able to expose the operation, the federal agent was kidnapped in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, allegedly on direct orders from Caro-Quintero. Camarena’s body, which showed signs of torture, was found a month later.
“Caro-Quintero had tremendous power three decades ago, and he still has power today,” said Russ Ellersick, an FBI special agent in the Seattle Division who is investigating the case. Ellersick is one of many federal law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts working collaboratively across North America to bring RCQ to justice and to dismantle the powerful Sinaloa Cartel with which he is allegedly affiliated.
“Our objective all along has been to investigate RCQ’s current activities but also to hold him accountable for Special Agent Camarena’s murder,” Ellersick said. To that end, the FBI is working closely with the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Department of State, which is providing the $20 million reward through its Narcotics Rewards Program.
“Together with our federal partners at the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Department of State, we are committed to bring to justice this dangerous criminal and cartel leader responsible for the brutal murder of a DEA agent,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. “Special Agent Camarena was devoted to stopping drug trafficking and breaking the cycle of drug-related crime. He showed tremendous courage to pursue the most violent drug traffickers, and it is because of his courage and his selflessness that we’re not going to stop looking for Caro-Quintero until we find him and put him back behind bars where he belongs.”
The announcement to add Caro-Quintero to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was made today during a press conference at DEA Headquarters near Washington, D.C.
“The reward in this case represents a serious amount of money,” noted FBI Special Agent Mike Rollins, another Seattle-based agent involved in the investigation. “Together with the significant publicity that always surrounds a Top Ten fugitive announcement, the $20 million reward will put RCQ on notice, along with his inner circle and others who might be helping him: The United States government is committed to his capture and won’t rest until he is in custody.”
Ellersick added that U.S. investigators have received strong support from Mexican law enforcement authorities. “Drug dealers are destroying their country,” he said, “and the Mexican authorities are motivated to help bring RCQ in.”
Caro-Quintero is believed to be in hiding in Mexico. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. If you have information regarding the fugitive, call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
Caro-Quintero is the 518th individual to be named to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list since the program was established in 1950. Since that time, 484 fugitives have been apprehended or located—more than 160 of them as a result of citizen cooperation.