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Showing posts with label Sinaloa Cartel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sinaloa Cartel. Show all posts

Monday, January 11, 2016

Three Sinaloa Cartel Distributors Sentenced to Lengthy Federal Prison Terms

Three men who were sent by the Sinaloa Cartel to Lubbock, Texas, to distribute methamphetamine for the cartel were sentenced to lengthy federal prison sentences, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Senior U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings sentenced Juan Carlos Pinales, 23, to 151 months in federal prison, Ramon Osvaldo Escobar-Robles, 25, to 78 months in federal prison, and Jesus Mario Moreno-Perez, 24, to 120 months in federal prison. Each pleaded guilty last year to one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting.  Escobar-Robles and Moreno-Perez are in the U.S. illegally.

According to documents filed in the case, a joint investigation by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office and the Lubbock Police Department revealed that the Sinaloa cartel had sent three individuals to Lubbock to distribute methamphetamine for the cartel. In June 2015, a search warrant was executed at their residence on Birch Avenue in Lubbock.

At the time the warrant was executed, the three defendants were home. The search by law enforcement yielded several containers or bags of suspected methamphetamine in the attic, to include:  two red Tupperware containers that contained a total of approximately 5.06 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, 19 clear plastic bags that contained a total of approximately 1.42 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, two clear plastic bags that contained a total of approximately 17.2 grams of suspected methamphetamine, and one clear plastic bag that contained approximately 31.2 grams of suspected methamphetamine; as well as a black pouch that contained approximately $3,783 in cash; numerous cell phones; money transfer receipts; and a spiral notebook that contained writings consistent with a drug ledger, showing amounts distributed to and owed by various persons.                                                

A DPS crime laboratory analysis confirmed that the substance in the two red Tupperware containers was, in fact, methamphetamine with a net weight of 1,797.92 grams and a purity level of at least 91.7%. All three defendants admitted they jointly possessed the methamphetamine found in the attic.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

17 Years in Federal Prison, to be Followed by Deportation, for Sinaloa Cartel Member, for Cocaine Drug Conspiracy

Acting United States Attorney Donald Feith announced that Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, 40 of Hermosillo, Mexico was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison after being convicted by a jury of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.

A grand jury for the District of New Hampshire originally charged Celaya Valenzuela and seven coconspirators including Joaquin Guzman-Loera, a/k/a “Chapo” with the drug conspiracy in June 2011. A grand jury returned a superseding indictment in July 2012; shortly before Celaya Valenzuela’s arrest in Spain on August 7, 2012 conspirators Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela, Jesus Gonzalo Palazuelo Soto, and Jesus Manuel Gutierrez Guzman arrived there to monitor the delivery of 346 kilograms of cocaine to Algeciras, Spain. The cocaine was delivered to a European port for eventual redistribution in Europe and the United States. The delivery resulted from negotiations between members of the Sinaloa Cartel led by Chapo and undercover agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation posing as members of an organized crime syndicate.

During the period of the negotiations there were numerous meetings with members of the conspiracy in the United States, including an April 2011 meeting in New Castle, New Hampshire, and a March 2011 meeting in Madrid, Spain to finalize the terms of the first delivery. During this time, three “test” deliveries of fruit were made to provide assurance to the conspirators that they were not dealing with law enforcement. The success of the test deliveries led to the ultimate delivery of the cocaine.

“This case illustrates that drug cartels based in foreign countries will go anywhere to distribute their deadly products,” stated Acting United States Attorney Donald Feith. “Mr. Celaya Valenzuela served as a representative of one of the world’s wealthiest and deadliest drug organizations. Without the work of dedicated agents from the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the Spanish National Police, this long term investigation would not have been successful. I commend these agencies for their determination to bring these individuals to justice.”

Celaya Valenzuela will be deported to Mexico upon his release.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drug Kingpin Saul Rodriguez Seeks Deal Like That Given to Other Gangsters for Cooperating

A drug kingpin whose testimony brought down a former Chicago cop and a murderous kidnapping crew is asking for a big break in his upcoming sentencing because of his extensive work as a rat for the government, but prosecutors are balking at the request.

Saul Rodriguez — who killed at least three people, including his best friend, kidnapped dozens of people and put millions of dollars of cocaine and heroin on Chicago’s streets — is seeking a sentence like the ones given to the key witnesses who helped the government break the Chicago mob and the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

Nick Calabrese, the top witness in the Family Secrets case against the Chicago Outfit, got a 12 year sentence. And twin brothers Margarito and Pedro Flores each were recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for their cooperation in the investigation of Sinaloa boss Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, the FBI’s most-sought fugitive until his arrest last year. But federal prosecutors said Rodriguez, whose sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 17, should receive a 40 year prison term because of the particularly evil nature of his crimes.

“Rodriguez had his best friend, Juan Luevano, murdered and then showed up at the funeral acting like a mourner,” according to a filing in federal court in Chicago.

“Rodriguez had 29 individuals kidnapped so that he could steal drugs or money. Six of his victims were children. One was an elderly grandmother.”

In their filing, prosecutors acknowledged that Rodriguez’s help was valuable — among those sent to prison due to his testimony was former Chicago Police Officer Glenn Lewellen — but the case pales in comparison with taking down Chicago’s top mob leaders or the top drug dealer in the world.

“Though Rodriguez’s cooperation was significant, it is inapt to compare it to the Flores brothers who secretly recorded meetings with cartel leaders while in Mexico,” the government said.

“The Flores brothers helped bring down an entire Mexican drug cartel,” the government said, adding that Calabrese “cooperated for seven years, wore a wire against notorious mob killers, testified against his own family and helped solve 13 murders.”

Thanks to a plea agreement, Rodriguez avoided a life sentence, but a “40-year sentence is necessary to ensure that Rodriguez will never again terrorize others for his own benefit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block wrote.

Rodriguez has received permission from the court to file his sentencing arguments under seal.

Thanks to Frank Main.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pedro and Margarito Flores Cooperation Against Sinaloa Cartel Yields 14-Year Prison Terms; New Charges Target Cartel Top Echelon

Twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, regarded as Chicago’s most significant drug traffickers who rose from street level dealers to the highest echelons of the Mexico-based Sinaloa Cartel and a rival cartel before they began providing unparalleled cooperation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), were each sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. The sentencing marked the Flores brothers’ first public court appearance since they entered protective federal custody in 2008. Their August 2012 guilty pleas to a narcotics distribution conspiracy were unsealed in November 2014. Also, federal law enforcement officials announced the unsealing of an expanded eighth superseding indictment in the case in which the Flores brothers and leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel were initially indicted here in 2009. The eighth superseding indictment and three separate new indictments announced today, add significant new defendants, including two alleged cartel money laundering associates who were arrested in the United States and extend the government’s efforts in Chicago and elsewhere to dismantle the Sinaloa Cartel under Joaquin Guzman Loera, 60, also known as “Chapo,” and Ismael Zambada Garcia, 67, aka “Mayo.”

“The persistent determination of DEA special agents and leadership in Chicago, coupled with the efforts of those in DEA offices worldwide, is having a significant impact on the global operations of the Sinaloa Cartel,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois. “This case put an end to the Flores brothers’ Chicago hub for transshipment of cartel narcotics nationwide. Our investigation and prosecution of cartel members is continuing,”

“The extraordinary work in this investigation continues,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Wichern of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA. “Agents, investigators, prosecutors and our worldwide law enforcement partners continue to expand this investigation against members of the Sinaloa Cartel ― working to bring them to justice and in doing so ― helping to make the great city of Chicago a safer place.”

“IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working together with the DEA and the United States Attorney’s Office to fight the war on drugs,” said Special Agent in Charge James C. Lee of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS CI) in Chicago. “IRS CI brings, and will continue to bring, its financial expertise to disrupt and dismantle the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking organization.”

Flores Brothers Sentencing

In sentencing of the 33-year-old Flores brothers, U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo said that but for the Flores brothers’ cooperation, he would have imposed a life sentence and noted that because of the peril their ongoing cooperation poses to them and their families, they effectively “are going to leave here with a life sentence.” If the city of Chicago had walls, Judge Castillo said the brothers’ operation “devastated the walls of this city,” adding that their operation “became just a highway of drugs into this city.” But, Judge Castillo added, “it is never too late to cooperate,” which is what earned the Flores brothers a significant discount in their sentences.

Judge Castillo ordered the Flores brothers to forfeit more than $3.66 million that was seized from them and a sport utility vehicle. In addition, more than $400,000 worth of assorted jewelry, several luxury automobiles and smaller amounts of cash and electronics equipment were seized and forfeited in administrative proceedings by the DEA. The brothers left behind millions of dollars in additional assets in Mexico after they began cooperating.

The judge also placed each of the brothers on court supervision for five years when they are released from prison after serving at least 85 percent of their sentences.

Between 2005 and 2008, the Flores brothers and their crew operated a Chicago-based wholesale distribution cell for the Sinaloa Cartel and a rival drug trafficking organization controlled by Arturo Beltran Leyva, receiving on average 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine per month. Approximately half of this cocaine was distributed to the Flores’ customers in the Chicago area, while the other half was distributed to customers in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Vancouver, among other cities. In total, the brothers admitted to facilitating the transfer of approximately $1.8 billion of drug proceeds from the United States to Mexico, primarily through bulk cash smuggling.

At great personal risk to themselves and their families, the Flores brothers began cooperating with the government in October 2008 and recorded conversations, including two directly with Chapo Guzman. Their cooperation resulted in indictments against leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran Leyva organization, as well as the complete dismantling of the brothers’ own Chicago-based criminal enterprise. In late 2008 alone, their cooperation facilitated approximately a dozen seizures in the Chicago area totaling hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and heroin and more than $15 million in cash, as well as the seizure of more than 1,600 kilograms of cocaine in the Los Angeles area that was bound for Chicago.

Further cooperation by the Flores brothers and members of their dismantled crew resulted in the convictions of more than a dozen of their high-level customers who received on average 50 to 100 kilos of cocaine per month.

“While not as high-profile as the cartel figures, the successful prosecution of these defendants made a very real difference in combating the scourge of drug trafficking that fuels so much violence and the destruction of communities in Chicago,” said the prosecutors in recommending a sentence at or near the low end of the agreed 10- to 16-year sentencing range.

“The Flores brothers (and their families) will live the rest of their lives in danger of being killed in retribution,” prosecutors stated in a sentencing memo. “The barbarism of the cartels is legend, with a special place reserved for those who cooperate.”

In 2009, the brothers’ father was kidnapped and presumed killed when he reentered Mexico despite the U.S. government warning him not to do so.

The Primary ― Eighth Superseding ― Indictment

The eighth superseding indictment unsealed today charges a total of nine defendants, including Chapo Guzman, Mayo Zambada and Guzman’s son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 31, aka “Alfredillo” and “Jags,” each of whom was among the initial group of co-defendants in the original indictment in 2009. Zambada and Salazar are fugitives, while Guzman remains in Mexican custody following his arrest last February.

Co-defendant, Jesus Raul Beltran Leon, 31, aka “Trevol” and “Chuy Raul,” was arrested in Mexico this past November and remains in Mexican custody. The remaining co-defendants, all fugitives, Heriberto Zazueta Godoy, 54, aka “Capi Beto,” Victor Manuel Felix Beltran, 27, aka “Lic Vicc,” Hector Miguel Valencia Ortega, 33, aka “Mv,” Jorge Mario Valenzuela Verdugo, 32, aka “Choclos” and Guadalupe Fernandez Valencia, 54, aka “Don Julio” and “Julia.”

This indictment alleges that all nine defendants conspired between May 2005 and December 2014, when the indictment was returned under seal, to import and distribute narcotics and to commit money laundering. They allegedly conspired to smuggle large quantities of cocaine from Central and South America, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico to the United States and through Chicago for distribution nationwide. The indictment seeks forfeiture of $2 billion.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control today announced the designation of Felix Beltran, who is Salazar’s brother-in-law, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, freezing all of his assets in the U.S. or in the control of U.S. persons and generally prohibiting any U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with him. A second designation was announced today against Alfonso Limon Sanchez, an alleged Sinaloa Cartel associate under federal indictment with Zambada and others in San Diego. Other alleged cartel leaders, including Chicago defendants Guzman, Zambada, Salazar and Godoy, were previously designated drug kingpins.

Charges brought in earlier versions of this primary indictment remain pending against three additional co-defendants: Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, 44, who is in custody in Mexico; German Olivares, age unknown and a fugitive; and Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega, 27, aka “Fox,” and Hector Miguel Valencia Ortega’s brother, who was arrested last year in the United States and is in federal custody in Chicago. His next court date is Feb. 19, 2015 for a status hearing.

In addition to the Flores brothers, Alfredo Vasquez Hernandez, 59, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last November to 22 years in prison. Two other co-defendants, Mayo Zambada’s son, Vicente Zambada Niebla, 39, and Tomas Arevalo Renteria, 45, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing in Chicago. Altogether, 18 defendants have been charged in the primary case in Chicago.

Three New Indictments

Those 18 are among a total of 62 defendants, most of whom have been convicted and sentenced, who were indicted in nearly two dozen related cases in Chicago since 2009. Two new defendants, Alvaro Anguiano Hernandez, 38, aka “Panda,” and Jorge Martin Torres, 38, were arrested separately in the U.S. in November and are facing separate indictments here alleging they were high-level money laundering associates of the Sinaloa Cartel and participated in money laundering conspiracies. Anguiano Hernandez’s indictment seeks forfeiture of $950,000.

Torres allegedly conspired to launder in excess of $300,000 of drug proceeds from Mexico to the United States to purchase, refurbish, and transfer from Ohio to Mexico, a 1982 Cessna Turbo 210 to promote the cartel’s alleged narcotics conspiracy. His indictment seeks forfeiture of $1 million.

A third separate indictment announced today charges Venancio Covarrubias, 26, aka “Benny,” of Elgin, who was arrested last October, with being a high-level cartel customer in the Chicago area. In September 2013, law enforcement, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Laredo, Texas, seized 159 kilograms of cocaine that was allegedly destined for a warehouse in Elgin leased by Covarrubias. The cocaine, wrapped in 118 brick-shaped packages, was hidden in a tractor-trailer containing a shipment of fresh tomatoes from a fictitious Mexican business called Tadeo Produce. The charges allege that during the prior year, Covarrubias wire transferred drug proceeds to Tadeo Produce while receiving narcotics disguised as tomato shipments. His indictment seeks forfeiture of $2.89 million.

The money laundering conspiracy charges against Anguiano Hernandez, Torres and Covarrubias carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, or an alternate fine totaling twice the amount of the funds involved in illegal activity. The narcotics importation and distribution conspiracy charges against Covarrubias and each defendant in the primary indictment carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States sentencing guidelines. The defendants against whom charges are pending are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Total Seizures Since 2008

Overall, the Chicago-based investigation of the Sinaloa Cartel has resulted in seizures of approximately $30.8 million, approximately 11 tons of cocaine, 265 kilograms of methamphetamine and 78 kilograms of heroin. Law Enforcement in Chicago has worked closely with federal agents and prosecutors in San Diego to target the senior leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel. This partnership yielded the prosecutions here as well as 14 indictments announced this month in San Diego against 60 alleged Sinaloa leaders, lieutenants and associates, including Zambada, two of his four sons and another of Guzman’s sons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beltran Veyva Drug Cartel Kingpin Extradited to United States from Mexico

One of the alleged leaders of the Beltran Leyva Organization, a Mexican drug-trafficking cartel responsible for importing multi-ton quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States, was extradited to the United States from Mexico on Nov. 15, 2014, and made an initial appearance yesterday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay of the District of Columbia.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, New York Division Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) made the announcement.

“Over the past two decades, the Beltran Leyva Cartel has distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of dangerous narcotics and engaged in a campaign of violence that sparked drug wars and jeopardized public safety across North America,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Today’s extradition of alleged kingpin Alfredo Beltran Leyva is an important step toward stamping out an organization that has ruined the lives of so many.  The Justice Department is committed to working with our international partners to bring the rest of the organization to justice.”

“The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltran Leyva represents a significant milestone in combating transnational criminal organizations,” said FBI Assistant Director Campbell.  “It is through collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners that the United States will stem the tide of this continuing threat.”

“For years Alfredo Beltran Leyva, along with his brothers, was responsible for not only smuggling tons of cocaine to the United States, but also for the violence that has plagued the lives of Mexican citizens,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Hunt.  “His extradition to the United States is an example of a commitment to international cooperation and the rule of law.”

“The illegal drugs distributed throughout the United States by the Beltran Levya Cartel ruined countless lives in this country and sowed violence and chaos throughout Mexico,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Edge.  “The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltran Levya to face justice here for his crimes is a great victory for ICE HSI and our partner agencies.”

Alfredo Beltran Levya, 43, was indicted on Aug. 24, 2012, for international narcotics trafficking conspiracy in connection with his leadership role in theinternational drug-trafficking cartel bearing his family name.

According to a motion for pretrial detention filed by prosecutors, between the early 1990s until his January 2008 arrest by Mexican law enforcement, Beltran Levya allegedly led the Beltran Levya Organization with his brothers Hector Beltran Levya and Arturo Beltran Levya, the latter of whom was killed in a December 2009 shootout with the Mexican army.  Since the 1990s, the Beltran Levya Organization, together with the Sinaloa Cartel, allegedly directed a large-scale drug transportation network, shipping multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America, through Central America and Mexico, and finally into the United States via land, air and sea.  The organization also employed “sicarios,” or hitmen, who allegedly carried out hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, kidnappings, tortures and violent collections of drug debts, at the direction of the organization.

Following the January 2008 arrest of  Alfredo Beltran Leyva by Mexican law enforcement authorities, the Beltran Leyva Organization severed its relationship with the Sinaloa Cartel, which was blamed for the arrest.  This resulted in a violent war between the two drug cartels, and the murder of thousands of citizens in Mexico, including numerous law enforcement officers and officials.

On May 30, 2008, the President added the Beltran Leyva Organization to the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  On Aug. 20, 2009, the President specifically designated Beltran Leyva as a specially designated drug trafficker under the same Kingpin Act.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sinaloa Cartel Member, Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, Found Guilty of Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, 41, formerly of Sonora, Mexico, was convicted following a jury trial of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, announced United States Attorney John P. Kacavas.

Celaya Valenzuela and his co-conspirators were members of the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by represented the Sinaloa Cartel, led by the notorious drug lord Joaquin Guzman-Loera, also known as “Chapo.” The cartel was seeking new cocaine distribution routes from South America to Europe, Canada, and the United States. Beginning in early 2010 and continuing through August 2012, undercover FBI agents posing as members of a European organized crime syndicate met with the cartel representatives. Many of the meetings were audio and video recorded and portions of those recordings were played for the jury. The recordings showed Celaya Valenzuela and several co-conspirators attending meetings in Miami, Boston, Madrid, Spain, and in Portsmouth and New Castle, New Hampshire.

Celaya Valenzuela held himself out as an attorney and financial planner working on behalf of Chapo and the cartel. Manuel Gutierrez Guzman, a co-conspirator and first cousin of Chapo, held himself out as his cousin’s representative in the negotiations. The cartel representatives offered to deliver thousands of kilograms of cocaine by containerized cargo vessels to various ports on the northeastern seaboard of the United States and in Europe. They further represented that the cocaine would come from any number of source countries, including Bolivia, Panama, Belize and Columbia. The deal was consummated by a face-to-face meeting with Chapo in the mountains of his home state of Sinaloa and several telephone calls in which he himself discussed details of the intended shipments.

On July 27, 2012, the conspirators delivered 346 kilograms of cocaine, more than 750 pounds worth millions of dollars, to a port in Algeciras, Spain. The cocaine was shipped via cargo container in boxes that purportedly held glassware. The FBI seized the cocaine, and on August 7, 2012, arrested Celaya Valenzuela, Gutierrez Guzman, Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela and Jesus Palazuelos Soto in Madrid. The defendants were then extradited to New Hampshire.

Manuel Gutierrez Guzman, Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela and Jesus Palazuelos Soto pleaded guilty before trial. A sentencing hearing for Soto is scheduled for December 22, 2014. Sentencing hearings for Manuel Gutierrez Guzman and Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela are scheduled for January 15, 2015. Celaya Valenzuela’s sentencing is scheduled for January 22, 2015. All the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The cartel’s leader, Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman-Loera, was arrested by Mexican authorities in February, 2014. He is under indictment in multiple jurisdictions in the United States, including the District of New Hampshire.

United States Attorney John P. Kacavas said, “Today’s guilty verdict, together with the guilty pleas of the defendant’s co-conspirators, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to disrupting and dismantling international drug trafficking organizations wherever they seek to peddle their poison. Whether along our southwest border, in major American cities, or in bucolic New Hampshire, we will use every law enforcement and prosecutorial tool at our disposal to bring international drug traffickers to justice. I want to thank our federal law enforcement partners, especially the FBI agents who went undercover at significant risk to their personal safety, and the Spanish National Police for their assistance in foiling this far-reaching scheme.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Full Details on Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, of the #SinaloaCartel, Guilty Plea and Cooperation with US Feds

A high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico pleaded guilty a year ago to participating in a vast narcotics trafficking conspiracy and is cooperating with the United States, federal law enforcement officials announced.  A written plea agreement with the defendant, Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, was made public in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Zambada-Niebla, 39, pleaded guilty on April 3, 2013, before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo.  Zambada-Niebla was arrested in Mexico in 2009, and he was extradited to the United States in February 2010.

Zambada-Niebla remains in U.S. custody and no sentencing date has been set.  Under the plea agreement, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison¸ a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and a maximum fine of $4 million.  If the government determines at the time of sentencing that Zambada-Niebla has continued to provide full and truthful cooperation, as required by the plea agreement, the government will move to depart below the anticipated advisory federal sentencing guideline of life imprisonment.  In addition, Zambada-Niebla agreed not to contest a forfeiture judgment of more than $1.37 billion.

“This guilty plea is a testament to the tireless determination of the leadership and special agents of DEA’s Chicago office to hold accountable those individuals at the highest levels of the drug trafficking cartels who are responsible for flooding Chicago with cocaine and heroin and reaping the profits,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.  Mr. Fardon announced the guilty plea with Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Zambada-Niebla pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin between 2005 and 2008.  More specifically, the plea agreement describes the distribution of multiple tons of cocaine, often involving hundreds of kilograms at a time on a monthly, if not weekly, basis between 2005 and 2008.  The guilty plea means that there will be no trial for Zambada-Niebla, whose case was severed from that of his co-defendants.  Among his co-defendants are his father, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, also known as “Mayo,” and Joaquin Guzman-Loera, also known as “Chapo,” both alleged leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Zambada-Garcia is a fugitive believed to be in Mexico, and Guzman-Loera is in Mexican custody after being arrested this past February.

Zambada-Niebla admitted that between May 2005 and December 2008, he was a high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel and was responsible for many aspects of its drug trafficking operations, “both independently and as a trusted lieutenant for his father,” for whom he acted as a surrogate and logistical coordinator, the plea agreement states.  Zambada-Niebla admitted he was aware that his father was among the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel since the 1970s and their principal livelihood was derived from their sale of narcotics in the United States.

Zambada-Niebla admitted that he participated in coordinating the importation of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Central and South American countries, including Colombia and Panama, into the interior of Mexico, and facilitated the transportation and storage of these shipments within Mexico.  The cartel used various means of transportation, including private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.

Zambada-Niebla “subsequently assisted in coordinating the delivery of cocaine to wholesale distributors in Mexico, knowing that these distributors would in turn smuggle multi-ton quantities of cocaine, generally in shipments of hundreds of kilograms at a time, as well as on at least one occasion, multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, from Mexico across the United States border, and then into and throughout the United States, including Chicago,” according to the plea agreement.

On most occasions, the Sinaloa Cartel supplied this cocaine and heroin to wholesalers on consignment, including to cooperating co-defendants Pedro and Margarito Flores, whom Zambada-Niebla knew distributed multi-ton quantities of cocaine and multi-kilogram quantities of heroin in Chicago, and in turn sent payment to Zambada-Niebla and other cartel leaders.  Zambada-Niebla also admitted being aware of, and directly participating in, transporting large quantities of narcotics cash proceeds from the U.S. to Mexico.

Zambada-Niebla also admitted that he and his father, as well as other members of the Sinaloa Cartel, “were protected by the ubiquitous presence of weapons,” and that he had “constant bodyguards who possessed numerous military-caliber weapons.”  Zambada-Niebla also admitted that he was aware that the cartel used violence and made credible threats of violence to rival cartels and to law enforcement in Mexico to facilitate its business.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Continues to Target #SinaloaCartel with Support from DEA

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) reported the designation of Jose Guadalupe Tapia Quintero, a Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico based senior lieutenant of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Jose Guadalupe Tapia Quintero was designated for his role in the drug trafficking activities of Ismael "Mayo" Zambada Garcia and for playing a significant role in international drug trafficking.

"DEA and its OFAC partners will not allow these dangerous cartels and their associates to exploit the U.S. financial system," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman.  "We're relentlessly following the financial trail to deprive these traffickers of their assets, draining the lifeblood from their criminal enterprises."

Tapia Quintero oversees the transportation of cocaine and marijuana for the Zambada Garcia drug trafficking organization and is responsible for coordinating the purchase and transportation of cocaine and methamphetamine from Sinaloa into the U.S., specifically Arizona and California, on a monthly basis.  Tapia Quintero also transports methamphetamine on behalf of a drug trafficking cell affiliated with Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera from Sinaloa to Tijuana, Baja California via tractor trailers.  The President identified Joaquin Guzman Loera, Ismael Zambada Garcia, and the Sinaloa Cartel as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act in 2001, 2002 and 2009, respectively.

Pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), this designation generally prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with Tapia Quintero, and also freezes any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

"We will continue to target all aspects of the narcotics trade," said Treasury's Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Adam J. Szubin.  "Our actions will focus on their financial nerve points as well as the underlying logistics which are essential to their day to day operations such as the transportation network that we are taking action against today."

This action would not have been possible without the support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), specifically the Phoenix Field Division, and the multi-agency OCDETF Strike Force.

Since June 2000, the President has identified 103 drug kingpins, and OFAC has designated more than 1300 entities and individuals, pursuant to the Kingpin Act. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.


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