Federal prosecutors say a high-ranking female member of a Mexican cartel has been charged in a cocaine conspiracy case in Arkansas.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that 57-year-old Idalia Ramos Rangel and more than a dozen others are charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.
Officials say Ramos Rangel is a high-ranking member of the Gulf cartel, which runs an organization believed to be responsible for trafficking hundreds of pounds of cocaine in Arkansas.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Randall Coleman says that, through a son incarcerated in the federal prison system, Ramos Rangel recruited inmates in Texas and Arkansas to continue her drug-related activities in Arkansas.
Authorities on Tuesday arrested 10 people indicted in the case.
Federal agents are searching for five more, including the woman who is the mastermind of this drug ring, who is still believed to be in Mexico.
The group is responsible for delivering hundreds of kilograms of cocaine in the United States, including 7 kilos which were busted in Memphis in February of 2012. According to the unsealed indictment, this drug ring started growing with the help of Rangel's son.
"Through her son, they were recruiting inmates at federal correctional facilities in Texas and Arkansas," Special Agent Coleman said. "Once they were released, they would go to work and continue her drug activity."
"We believe based on evidence that we have, Ms. Rangel, is a lieutenant or captain in the drug cartel, which would put her immediately under the very top level of the drug cartel," added Christopher Thyer, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Even though they don't have all 16 people in custody, they are all charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. If found guilty, they could face a sentence of no less than 10 years in prison.
Special Agent Coleman said this case was a team effort and that he would like to thank the Memphis Police Department for the part it played in the investigation.
The Associated Press in Little Rock contributed to this report.
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