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Mexico drug lord convicted in killing of U.S. DEA agent leaves prison

MEXICO CITY -- Drug lord Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca Carrillo, who was convicted in the 1985 killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was transferred from prison to house arrest Thursday to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

The 86-year-old co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel was taken overnight to a house in Mexico State, which borders the capital, and was entrusted to the care of his wife, federal prisons chief Eduardo Guerrero said in comments broadcast by the Televisa network.

Guerrero said Fonseca will be required to wear an electronic bracelet and the home will have four guards posted around the clock, as well as closed-circuit cameras monitoring the perimeter. He said officials fought for over a year to keep Fonseca in prison but ultimately had to obey a judge's order of house arrest.

"From the government's perspective, we believe it is not right that someone who did so much damage to this country is today serving the end of this sentence on the outside. ... He did a lot of damage to society and he should still be, according to all the studies, inside a federal prison," Guerrero said.

The prisons chief added that authorities made various security checks at the house including ensuring there was no tunnel through which Fonseca could potentially escape.

U.S. drug enforcement agent Enrique Camarena (shown here) was working undercover when he exposed Rafael Caro Quintera's massive marijuana operation. Caro Quintero was later convicted in the kidnapping and murder of Camarena. CBS News

Fonseca, who was convicted in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, has nearly 10 years remaining on his 40-year sentence. His family successfully petitioned a judge to grant him house arrest for the remainder due to his poor health and advanced age.

"We exhausted all legal recourses we had at our disposition to prevent Ernesto Fonseca from getting out," said Guerrero, adding that he had no knowledge of whether Fonseca may still be dangerous or involved in a criminal organization.

Yoanna Fonseca, "Don Neto's" daughter, said house arrest for her father was first approved 18 months ago and he is continuing to serve his sentence as provided for by the law.

"Because of his age, his 86 years, and his various ailments, it is necessary," she said in an interview with Uno Noticias outside the penitentiary in Jalisco state where Fonseca had been incarcerated. "He shouldn't be denied his right to life and to health, which is a human right."

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment.

Michael Vigil, former head of international operations for the DEA, said it's doubtful Fonseca would be in a position to once again head up a drug operation, but he likely still has cartel contacts in Mexico and Colombia and could potentially act as an adviser to existing gangs.

"He can certainly provide advice, provide political connections, things of that nature," Vigil said. He called Fonseca a "psychopathic killer of the first magnitude" and said he believes even the 40-year sentence was lenient.

"It really is very frustrating to the DEA simply because he was responsible for the killing of Enrique Camarena in the most horrific manner," Vigil added. "And when you take into consideration all the people that he was responsible for killing, you know, they were never given any kind of reprieve by this individual and they were shown absolutely no mercy."

Another co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, Rafael Caro Quintero, was released from prison in 2013 after an appeals court overturned his own conviction in Camarena's killing on jurisdictional grounds. Mexico's Supreme Court annulled that ruling three months later and a warrant was issued for Caro Quintero to be rearrested, but he remains at large. The U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his recapture.

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