‘Queen of the Pacific’ Facing Federal Drug Charges

Every now and then, a woman rises to the top of the drug dealer chain. It’s a rare occurrence in the male-dominated business, but Sandra Avila Betran had risen to the top.

The 51-year-old woman, who had a ballad written for her by a band called Los Tucanes de Tijuana, is set to appear in federal court in Miami for her arraignment and bond hearing. She had been extradited 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 man’s world and use the fact that she was a woman to her advantage in more ways than one.”

She earned her ‘Queen of the Pacific’ status through her romantic relationship with a Colombian drug kingpin and her influence over the supply routes of the Pacific ocean.

Her extradition to the U.S. was granted by the Mexican court system to face trafficking charges. More than ten years ago federal agents intercepted a phone call in which Avila allegedly was seeking payment for some 220 pounds of cocaine that was being delivered in Chicago.

Her defense attorney maintains that Avila is innocent.

“Throughout the entirety of the prosecution’s 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.

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