(Reuters) - The son of a leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel was arraigned in a federal court in California on Monday on drug trafficking charges after he surrendered to U.S. law enforcement authorities in July, the U.S. Justice Department said.

 

Damaso Lopez-Serrano, 29, is the son of Damaso Lopez-Nunez, who was arrested in May by Mexican authorities and was believed to have been fighting for control of the Sinaloa Cartel against the sons of its captured leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

 

Also known as "Mini Lic," Damaso Lopez-Serrano is a suspected senior official in the Sinaloa cartel and believed to be the highest-ranking Mexican cartel leader to surrender to authorities in the United States, the department said in a statement. He pleaded not guilty, local media reported.

 

The United States is seeking the extradition of the father, also known as "El Licenciado," on a Dec. 14, 2016 indictment in Virginia for drug charges. His son was also charged in that case, the department said.Damaso Lopez-Serrano was arraigned on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Diego on Aug. 19, 2016, charging him and five associates with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances intended for importation and conspiracy to import controlled substances, it said.

 

A lawyer for the suspect was not immediately available for comment.

 

The three-count indictment said that the suspect knowingly conspired with others to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment on what length of sentence he could face if convicted.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Frank McGurty and Andrew Hay)