Sinaloa Cartel Member Sentenced To 22 Years In Federal Prison; Plea Agreements Unsealed For Leaders Of Cartel’s Chicago Cell
CHICAGO - ― A high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico was sentenced today to 22 years in federal prison and, separately, guilty pleas were unsealed in the same case for twin brothers who ran the cartel’s Chicago distribution cell and supplied vast quantities of cocaine and heroin in cities across the United States and Canada.
At a sentencing hearing this afternoon, the government argued that Alfredo Vasquez Hernandez, 59, coordinated the use of airplanes, trains, and submarines for the Sinaloa Cartel to transport cocaine from Central and South America to Mexico, as well as from Mexico into and throughout the United States. Vasquez Hernandez was placed on court supervision for five years after he is released from his 264-month sentence. He must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and is subject to deportation following his release from custody.
Vasquez Hernandez, who was extradited from Mexico in 2012, pleaded guilty in April this year to participating in the Sinaloa Cartel drug distribution conspiracy between May 2005 and December 2009. In imposing sentence, U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo said he would have sentenced Vasquez Hernandez to 25 years but gave him credit for the time he was held in Mexico.
“We are tired, tired of drug trafficking and it continues to hurt this city and this country,” Judge Castillo said. The judge noted it was difficult to determine Vasquez Hernandez’s role in the cartel, but said it was undeniable that he involved himself in a major shipment of drugs that was headed to Chicago.
In pleading guilty without a plea agreement, Vasquez Hernandez admitted that he was responsible for smuggling only 276 kilograms of cocaine to Chicago in November 2008 for sale to twin brothers PEDRO and Margarito Flores, who, unbeknownst to Vasquez Hernandez and co-conspirators, were cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Also today, plea agreements that the Flores brothers, both 33, entered into when they pleaded guilty in August 2012 were unsealed and made public for the first time in advance of their anticipated sentencing next month in U.S. District Court.
According to the Flores brothers’ plea agreements, they and the Chicago distribution crew they controlled obtained and distributed from Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, on average, 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine a month at certain times during the conspiracy and received some or all of that quantity from factions of the Sinaloa Cartel led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as “Chapo,” and Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as “Mayo.” Using several warehouse locations in the Chicago area to unload and store shipments of cocaine and heroin, the Flores brothers and their crew sold the narcotics to wholesale customers in the Chicago area, as well as to customers in Milwaukee, Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.
During the course of their conspiracy, the brothers admitted that they and their crew were responsible for transporting $938,415,000 in narcotics proceeds, in the form of bulk U.S. currency, from the United States to Mexico.
According to their plea agreements and a preliminary forfeiture order that was filed today, the Flores brothers agreed to forfeit more than $3.6 million in cash that was seized from them, in addition to more than $400,000 worth of assorted jewelry, several luxury automobiles, smaller amounts of cash, and electronics equipment, all of which were seized and forfeited in an administrative process by the DEA.
If Judge Castillo accepts their plea agreements and grants the government’s motion at sentencing next month, then he must sentence the Flores brothers to prison terms ranging between 10 and 16 years in federal custody.
At Vasquez Hernandez’s sentencing today, the government argued that he worked directly with Chapo Guzman and the Flores brothers to smuggle cocaine from place to place using various modes of transportation, including, for example, large cargo planes to fly more than 20 tons of cocaine directly from Columbia to Mexico. Vasquez Hernandez specialized in using trains to smuggle drugs into the United States and transporting them to Chicago hidden in rail cars.
“This case is about drug trafficking at the highest levels at which it exists in the world. [Vasquez Hernandez] conspired directly with Chapo Guzman and other leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel to traffic ton quantities of cocaine that were ultimately distributed into the United States. The direct and indirect damage that those drugs have caused to communities in Chicago and elsewhere is immeasurable,” a team of federal prosecutors argued in a sentencing memo.
The Vasquez Hernandez sentencing and Flores brothers’ plea agreements were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Dennis Wichern, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA in Chicago led the investigation, joined by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the Chicago Police Department. Also assisting were the DEA’s National Drug Intelligence Center, the Chicago High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois; the Chicago and Peoria offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Chicago office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals Service; the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, and other state and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation was assisted by agents and analysts of the Special Operations (SOD), and attorneys from the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs assisted with the extraditions.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Ferrara, Erika Csicsila, Naana Frimpong, Georgia Alexakis, Kathryn Malizia, and Thomas D. Shakeshaft.