Eduardo Arellano Félix, the leader of the Tijuana-based Arellano Félix drug cartel, plead guilty this morning to charges of conspiring to launder money and invest funds gained from violating drug laws, after prosecutors agreed to drop the charges of racketeering and conspiring to traffic drugs, according to the Associated Press  He could face 15 years in federal prison. 

Arellano Félix, a doctor, is the last of four brothers to face charges in the U.S. for their cartel's activities. One brother, Ramon, was killed in Mexico in 2002. That same year, his brother Benjamín was nabbed by Mexican authorities and extradited to the United States; last year he was sentenced to 25 years. Another brother, Francisco Javier, got life in 2007 in the U.S. after the Coast Guard captured him in international waters off of Baja California.

Eduardo Arellano Félix, who also goes by nicknames "El Doctor" ("the doctor"), "El Profe" ("the professor"), "El Abuelito" ("the granddaddy") and "Samuel Bracamontes" was arrested in October 2008 after a shootout with Mexican authorities at his home in Tijuana. Once his sentence is completed, he will be deported to Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns accepted the plea after "the doctor" acknowledged having a major role in the crime family's finances, overseeing payments for weapons, property and bribes from 1986 to 2002. 

For a duration of about 45 minutes, it seemed to have been put in doubt when Felix hesitated to assent to Burns' description of his role in the cartel, which transported hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. over the course of three decades starting in the 1980s. Attorney Brian Funk later told the press that his client's hesitation was because the judge's line of questioning had made it seem as though Arellano Félix had directed operations. 

"[The deal] says that you would speak with [your brother Benjamin] about how to handle the drogs and the money, pay members of the criminal group, that he would ask you for advice," said Burns.

"He would do it, I didn't [handle drugs, pay members], he talked with me but..." answered Eduardo Arellano Félix, who frequently turned to his lawyer for advice. "I did have workers under me, but not for those other things. We built houses," he added. 

In the end, though, the judge accepted the guilty plea. His sentencing is scheduled for August 19.