Z-43 Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Tons of Cocaine into United States
HOUSTON – A former high-ranking member of the Los Zetas cartel has entered a guilty plea to a conspiracy to import tons of cocaine into the United States, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Jose Maria Guizar-Valencia, 43, of Tulare, California, is considered one of the last numbered Los Zetas and was a regional leader in charge of the Guatemala/Central America region.
“Today the cartels were put on notice,” said Hamdani. “After a long and hard-fought battle, we brought another ruthless cartel leader to justice. Jose Maria Guizar-Valencia may have thought he was untouchable, but now he feels the reach, power and persistence of the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He once led the drug activity in a large swath of Central America. Those days are over, and the residents of the Southern District of Texas are now safer.”
“The guilty plea of Guizar-Valencia is another example of our success in the fight against Mexican drug cartels operating in the United States and exemplifies the commitment of the DEA and our law enforcement partners to battle against global drug trafficking organizations,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux, Houston Division. “DEA continues our pursuit to hold accountable high-ranking members of Mexican drug cartels who profit from the sale of dangerous drugs to our citizens and threaten the security of the United States.”
In 2012, law enforcement began an investigation into the illegal drug trafficking activities of the Los Zetas. At the time, they were a Mexican-based drug cartel in control of much of the Mexico/U.S. border to include the Texas corridor.
The investigation revealed Los Zetas had expanded their control of the drug trade to Central and South America. This enabled them to control the importation of drugs from countries including Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia into the Republic of Mexico and then into the United States.
The investigation revealed that from 2007 to 2014, Guizar-Valencia was responsible for controlling a large portion of Guatemala and for coordinating the transportation of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia to Guatemala, Guatemala to Mexico and then from Mexico into the United States for further distribution. Guizar-Valencia also managed the receipt of millions of dollars in U.S. currency the cartel obtained from the sale of cocaine in the United States.
Guizar Valencia had been under indictment and was on the run for many years. He evaded apprehension until Feb. 9, 2018, when Mexican authorities and its military arrested him in Mexico City, Mexico. He later waived extradition.
U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana will sentence Guizar-Valencia at a later date, at which time he will be facing a possible punishment of up to life in prison and a $10 million maximum fine. He will remain in custody.
The DEA spearheaded the long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation.
OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) MaryLou Castillo, Lance Watt and former AUSA James Hepburn of the Southern District of Texas and Kirk Handrich of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section prosecuted the case.