6a00d8341c630a53ef01676824c68a970b-300wi.jpgIn Mexico, the media called her  “La Bonita,” the pretty one, or “La Chula,” the beautiful one  or “La Reina del Crimen,” the queen of Mexican crime.

Mexican authorities long alleged Anel Violeta Noriega Rios, 27, was a top operative in the La Familia drug cartel working out of the United States. They claimed she helped smuggle drugs from Mexico into the United States, once using a gardening company to move drugs brought by sea into Long Beach.

But when authorities arrested Noriega Rios at a modest El Monte apartment last week on immigration charges, there were no indications the woman had a 5-million peso reward on her head.

“It is the last place you’d expect to find someone who was supposed to have run so many drugs,” a source familiar with the investigation told The Times.

When announcing Noriega Rios’ arrest on Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement called her a “main U.S.-based operative” in the La Familia cartel, a group often characterized as ruthless and cult-like, known for moving mostly methamphetamine – but cocaine and marijuana too — into the U.S. from the Mexican state of Michoacan.

Authorities began watching Noriega Rios in El Monte upon request from Mexican officials, who received a tip indicting she was living in the working-class San Gabriel Valley city. After authorities were able to determine the woman was in fact Noriega Rios, they arrested her without incident.

They confirmed her identity later using fingerprints, sources said.

Immigration officials said Noriega Rios was arrested in the United States and deported to Mexico five times between 2004 and 2005 but has no criminal convictions in the U.S.

She was handed over to Mexican authorities in San Ysidro on Friday.

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