Reputed millionaire drug kingpin Leanardo Contreras-Subias, a prime suspect in the 1985 torture slaying of a federal narcotics agent, was arraigned this week on 8-year-old cocaine trafficking charges.
Contreras-Subias, 42, who has also been charged in Mexico with killing three Mexican police officers, appeared briefly in federal court under extraordinarily heavy security.
Contreras-Subias was scheduled to enter a plea to the charges April 25. He will also challenge the government's identification of him. He claims he is not the man named in the indictment, but Jose Gonsalez Guilman, a Mexican citizen who owns cattle ranches in Texas and Oklahoma.
Federal investigators insist the man they arrested April 1 in Salt Lake City is Contreras-Subias, also a cattle rancher with vast holdings. They say his fingerprints match those of Contreras-Subias taken in 1980 before he fled the narcotics indictment.
But defense attorney Stephen Stein of Las Vegas told reporters after the hearing that his client was arrested in an overzealous bid to catch the killer of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena. The fingerprint match is dubious, he said, and the two men have different birthdates.
"Any time a federal agent dies, whether by an act of God or otherwise, the justice system goes bananas," Stein said. "Anyone who was in Mexico or was flying over Mexico or had a relative in Mexico at the time of the (Camarena) killing is suspect."
Contreras-Subias has not been charged with the February 1985 slaying of Camarena near Guadalajara, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmy Gurule said he is a "prime suspect" because he was discovered in hiding with alleged narcotics lord Rafael Caro-Quintero _ who has been charged with the slaying _ in Costa Rica shortly after the killing.
Contreras-Subias was indicted on the cocaine charges in 1980 with five other men but was a fugitive until his capture in Utah. He is charged with selling one kilogram of cocaine to an undercover narcotics agent and conspiring to sell 20 kilograms of the drug.
At his first Los Angeles court appearance April 11, a federal magistrate ordered Contreras-Subias without bail after prosecutors cited his vast wealth, previous prison escape and violent history as evidence that he would flee if released on bond.
Contreras-Subias was arrested with Caro-Quintero in April 1985 and was held in a Tijuana jail on charges of killing police officers from the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa in 1978, Gurule said. But he escaped about six months later.
Federal authorities say he was later embroiled in a traffic-stop shootout that killed one Tijuana police officer and wounded another.