Federal Jury Convicts Two Men with Ties to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel
MAR 10 - United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that in El Paso, a federal jury this afternoon convicted two men with ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel in connection with a conspiracy to smuggle over 100 tons of marijuana from Mexico into the United States.
The jury convicted 40-year-old Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and 19-year-old Manuel Chavez-Betancourt of conspiracy to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. The jury also convicted Arambula, but acquitted Chavez-Betancourt, of one count of conspiracy to import over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.
Testimony during trial revealed that a number of drug seizures by law enforcement in 2007 and 2008 were tied to numerous associates of Arambula and the Sinaloa Cartel. The jury heard evidence that Arambula was a high level lieutenant in the Sinaloa organization who was fighting with members of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization for control of the Juarez “plaza,” or drug trafficking corridor. Witnesses also testified that Arambula and other high ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel were using any means at their disposal, including bribery, extortion and violence, to gain the upper hand in the war between the two cartels.
The evidence showed that Betancourt was a relatively low level operative in the organization who delivered vehicles with marijuana in hidden compartments to stash house operators in the United States.
Arambula faces between 20 years and life in federal prison; Betancourt, between ten years and life in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for June 2010.
This case was investigated by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Texas Department of Public Safety as well as state authorities in New Mexico.
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