HOUSTON — The former head of the notorious Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, 42, of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been sentenced to serve 25 years in federal prison without parole and will forfeit to the United States $50 million in proceeds from his illegal enterprise, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. United States District Judge Hilda Tagle handed down the sentence this morning.
Originally indicted in 2000 in the Southern District of Texas, Cardenas-Guillen was extradited in January 2007—one of a total of 15 major drug defendants and others extradited to the United States from Mexico—for prosecution. He has remained in federal custody without bond since then.
“The successful prosecution of Cardenas-Guillen underscores the joint resolve of the United States and Mexico to pursue and prosecute the leadership of the drug trafficking cartels, dismantle their organizations and end the violence and corruption they have spawned,” said Moreno.
While head of the Gulf Cartel, Cardenas-Guillen oversaw a vast drug trafficking empire responsible for the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. The drugs smuggled into the country under Cardenas-Guillen’s watch were further distributed to other areas of the country, including Houston and Atlanta, Ga. From July 2000 through September 2001, more than 2000 kilograms of cocaine directly attributable to Cardenas-Guillen was seized by United States law enforcement. The distribution of these vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana generated millions of dollars in drug proceeds which flowed south to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and ultimately into Mexico. Drug ledgers seized in Atlanta in June 2001 indicated that the Gulf Cartel generated more than $41 million in drug proceeds over a three-and-a-half-month period in the Atlanta area alone.
Cardenas-Guillen used violence and intimidation as a means of furthering the goals of his criminal enterprise. In May 1999, Cardenas-Guillen threatened to kill a Cameron County Sheriff’s Deputy who was working in an undercover capacity with ICE after the undercover agent refused to deliver a load of approximately 988 kilograms of marijuana. Later, in November 1999, while traveling in an official vehicle through Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, in performance of their official duties, a DEA agent and an FBI agent were surrounded by Cardenas-Guillen and his gang and threatened at gunpoint. Although eventually allowed to leave, the agents were threatened by Cardenas-Guillen and warned not to return.
Today, the court accepted Cardenas-Guillen’s previously entered pleas of guilty to a total of five felony offenses including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and threatening to assault and murder federal agents. In accordance with the terms of a previously filed plea agreement accepted by the court today, the court sentenced Cardenas-Guillen as to each offense of conviction and ordered all sentences to be served concurrently for a total of 25 years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons without parole in accordance with the terms. Cardenas-Guillen will serve 25 years for the drug trafficking conspiracy conviction (count one), and the maximum statutory penalty for each of the other four counts of conviction—20 years’ imprisonment the money laundering conspiracy conviction (count 17) and five years each as to counts 14, 15, and 16, relating to threats to murder a law enforcement officers.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Tagle fined Cardenas-Guillen $100,000 and further ordered him to serve a supervised release term of five years. Additionally, the court entered a preliminary order of forfeiture imposing a personal money judgment against Cardenas-Guillen in favor of the United States in the amount of $50 million.
Cardenas-Guillen has been in federal custody without bond since his extradition from Mexico to the United States. He will remain in federal custody to serve his sentence.
The three-year investigation which led to the indictment and subsequent arrest and conviction of Cardenas-Guillen was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with considerable assistance and cooperation from the United States Marshals Service and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office.