Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Assault, Attempted Murder, Drug trafficking, Extortion, Kidnapping, Money Laundering | Posted on 27-02-2010
A very big Mexican drug kingpin was sentenced in Houston to a 25-year sentence. The sentencing hearing was done in a closed courtroom. Osiel Cardenas Guillen was the head of the “Gulf Cartel” until his arrest by Mexican authorities in 2007. He pled guilty to five counts of a lengthy indictment, which included drug trafficking, money laundering and the attempted murder and assault of federal agents. He also forfeited $50 million in assets to the U.S. Government.
The Gulf Cartel controls much of the cocaine traffic across the Mexican-American border in South Texas. Cardenas was responsible for “kidnapings, extortion, gun battles in the streets,” according to U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle, who sentenced Cardenas.
Nevertheless, Judge Tagle followed the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney in giving the sentence because Cardenas was cooperating with the government in pursuing other drug traffickers.
Before he was arrested by Mexican authorities in 2003, Cardenas ran an empire of drug smugglers and gunmen in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They moved tons of cocaine every year into the United States. He was famous to law enforcement on both sides of the border for the vicious violence he employed against his enemies. He recruited former military commandoes as his gunmen, known as Zetas.
Even after his arrest, he continued to direct the operations of his cartel from his Mexican jail cell. Then Mexican President Felipe Calderon broke with previous policy and extradited Cardenas along with 14 other major figures from the Mexican underworld. Cardenas began cooperating with the U.S. Government immediately when he arrived here. Meanwhile, his former organization has been weakened by arrests and lack of leadership.
The Zetas have now broken off from the Gulf Cartel. They have become a separate criminal enterprise that controls the crossing at Laredo, Texas, and recently there has been a series of gun battles between the Zetas and what is left of the Gulf Cartel in the towns along the Texas border in a contest for turf.
Cardenas has been in the United States for two years, cooperating with law enforcement all the time, perhaps especially cooperating on the Zetas, since they have split with his Gulf Cartel. Finally, his sentence was handed down in a courtroom, closed to the public. Judge Tagle also sealed dozens of documents related to Cardenas’ plea agreement and descriptions of his assets, all at the request of government prosecutors. It is not unusual to seal documents in a case, but it is very unusual to lock a courtroom for a hearing in a United States Courthouse.
The sentencing hearing was attended by two members of Cardenas family and some law enforcement officers, along with armed guards. The hearing was not even on the court’s published docket until hours after it was over. The transcript taken of the hearing reflects that the judge explained the United States Marshal’s Service had asked to keep the public from witnessing the hearing because it would jeopardize Cardenas’ safety. The affidavit detailing that request was sealed. Judge Tagle stated that if she opened the hearing, the “defendant, court personnel, United States marshal personnel, other courthouse personnel and the general public will be placed in imminent danger.”