REPORT: Feds Arrest Beauty Queen In Major Cartel Drug Bust

Jeff Charles Contributor
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Federal authorities have arrested a former beauty queen and two bank employees in Indiana for collaborating with a Mexican cartel to traffic drugs into the country, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The three individuals are accused of allegedly “moving thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States and laundering tens of millions of dollars in proceeds,” the DOJ’s press release explained.

The indictment, unsealed Friday, also “charges flight attendant GLENIS ZAPATA, 34, of Lafayette, Ind., with assisting the traffickers in the transportation of drug proceeds on commercial airline flights.”

Before becoming a flight attendant, Zapata was 2011’s Miss Indiana Latina, according to ABC7.

The former beauty queen is alleged to have “possessed a ‘Known Crew Member’ badge and used her authority to help the cartel move cash drug proceeds from the Midwest to the southern part of the U.S. and into Mexico,” according to the DOJ. (RELATED: Mexican Drug Cartels Are Expanding Into A New Industry — Wi-Fi, Prosecutors Say: REPORT)

The alleged operation also involved the use of semi-trailer trucks and private charter airplanes to transport the contraband, the Justice Department noted.

Also facing charges are Ilenis Zapata, 33, and Georgina Banuelos, 39, for helping “launder the drug proceeds by exchanging lower denominated bills for higher denominated bills,” according to the press release. The release did not specify whether Glenis and Ilenis are related, though ABC7 referred to them as sisters.

The drug operation appears to have been quite extensive, with the alleged perpetrators moving cocaine “in wholesale quantities from Mexico to various U.S. cities, including Chicago, from 2018 to 2023,” the DOJ reported.

According to the press release, the case was “part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation,” with representatives of Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection jointly announcing the charges alongside Morris Pasqual, the acting United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Three cartel members involved in the operation were arrested in Nov. 2021 after arriving in Gary, Indiana, on a private jet with suitcaess full of cocaine. All three have been sentenced and imprisoned, ABC7 reported.