A Mexican federal judge on Thursday rejected a second attempt to extradite an alleged drug trafficker to the U.S., nearly exhausting yearslong efforts by both nations to convict a woman known as the "Queen of the Pacific." Judge Jesus Chavez ruled that Sandra Avila Beltran would face the same charges in Florida on which she was acquitted in Mexico. Chavez said the core of a 2004 indictment against Avila in the Southern District of Florida is the seizure of more than nine tons of U.S.-bound cocaine on Mexico's west coast. A Mexican judge acquitted Avila in December 2010 of charges stemming from the same confiscation of drugs off a vessel nine years earlier in the port of Manzanillo. An appeals court upheld that verdict last August. "It is impossible to say the actions related to the more than nine tons of cocaine discovered in the vessel would not be subject of the foreign trial for which U.S. officials seek the defendant," Chavez said, according to a news statement. In the U.S., Avila was indicted on two conspiracy charges to import and distribute cocaine and has been wanted since November 2007, two months after her arrest in Mexico. The judge said Mexico's constitution prohibits double jeopardy and thus prevents extraditing a citizen for trial in another country on charges they already faced at home. Officials from the Foreign Relations Department and Mexican Attorney General's office declined to comment, saying they were studying the decision. Both can contest it, but the next outcome by an appeals court would be final. A Mexican appeals panel rejected a first U.S. extradition request on the same grounds. Avila remains in a western Mexico prison in the state of Nayarit, pending trial for a separate money-laundering charge. Mexican officials did not reveal her lawyer's identity. Avila has claimed she is innocent and says she made her money selling clothes and renting houses. When she was arrested in 2007 sipping coffee in a Mexico City diner, prosecutors alleged that Avila spent more than a decade working her way to the top of Mexico's drug trade, seducing several notorious kingpins and uniting Colombian and Mexican gangs. Avila's romance with Colombian Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez brought together Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel with Colombia's Norte del Valle, prosecutors said. Espinoza was extradited to Florida in December 2008, two years before he was found not guilty on charges in Mexico related to the cocaine shipment. Avila is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, "the godfather" of Mexican drug smuggling who is serving a 40-year sentence in Mexico for trafficking and the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico's western Jalisco state.
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