LMTonline — A high-level drug trafficking fugitive known for her luxurious lifestyle and extensive ties to senior Mexican cartel leaders was recently captured by Mexican authorities and is expected to be extradited to the United States.
Ana Marie Hernandez, known as “La Muñeca,” or the doll, was arrested in Chihuahua after on the run from American and El Paso authorities for about two years, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office announced this week.
Hernandez, 38, fled Texas after pleading guilty to drug smuggling and bribery charges in 2013 in El Paso. According to a federal criminal complaint, Hernandez and her ex-husband Daniel Ledezma smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine through an El Paso border crossing where he worked.
The drugs, which were transported through lanes being inspected by Ledezma, were distributed to several cities throughout the U.S. including Chicago, St. Louis and Panama City, Florida, the complaint said.
Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA, said Hernandez, who operated in Texas and Mexican border cities, used her good looks and wit to smuggle drugs and gain access to senior cartel members in the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.
“Beautiful women are highly coveted by the cartel leaders, they bring them into the fold and a lot of times have relationships with them,” Vigil said in an interview with mySA.com. “(The cartels) use them because they have the ability to infiltrate the United States and develop ties and distribution tentacles here.”
“La Muñeca” began working with the Juarez Cartel, but became a large-scale trafficker for the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, after the Juarez Cartel’s demise, said Vigil, who worked in Mexico tracking drug cartel activity for 13 years.
Vigil said he believes Hernandez has some sort of relationship with “El Chapo,” based on her affiliation with the Sinaloa Cartel and the drug lord’s affinity for attractive women.
“One thing we know about Chapo Guzman is his love of beautiful women,” he said.
However, “La Muñeca’s” capture could be an indirect result of Guzmán escape.
Vigil said Mexico has opened the “flood gates” on extraditions to the U.S. as a way to compensate following Guzman’s escape from a maximum security prison earlier this year.
“The Mexican government is using these extraditions to keep pressure of their back until they are able to capture ‘El Chapo’,” he said. “(His escape) was a significant embarrassment.”
Earlier this month, 13 mid-to-high ranking cartel members were extradited to the U.S., including Laredo native Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie.”
Vigil said several other leaders will be extradited soon, including Omar Treviño Morales, the leader of the Zetas Cartel.
“La Muñeca” is known for her lavish lifestyle, according to the federal complaint.
“Hernandez does not have a job, however, (she) is regularly observed … spending large amounts of money,” the complaint said.
Hernandez spent thousands of dollars on clothing and shoes during a 2008 four-day trip to Las Vegas. She paid $30,000 cash for a pool at her home in El Paso, the documents said.
“Her capture by Mexican authorities shows that not even a beautiful drug trafficker like ‘La Muñeca’ is above the rule of law,” Vigil said.