Mexican Cartel Leader Gets 35 Years

SAN DIEGO – A former chief in the Sanchez-Arellano drug cartel was sentenced Friday to 35 years in federal prison on RICO charges, federal prosecutors said.
     Mario Escamilla, 33, is the 39th defendant to plead guilty of 43 who were charged in July 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing his sentence.
     Prosecutors said all the defendants were members of the Fernando Sanchez organization, an offshoot of the old Arellano-Felix cartel.
     “Escamilla pleaded guilty in January of 2012 to the RICO conspiracy and narcotics distribution conspiracy charges,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “In his plea agreement, he admitted to involvement in three murder conspiracies – all of which were prevented by law enforcement.”
     The statement continued: “In the sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Robinson wrote that Escamilla targeted people for assassination for frivolous reasons – like stealing a relatively small quantity of marijuana, or for ‘disrespecting’ the cartel leadership.
     “‘Escamilla confirmed through his conduct in this case that he has no qualms about committing murder, no matter how trivial the justification is for doing so,’ prosecutors wrote.”
     Two of the four remaining defendants are fugitives, one is believed to be dead, and lead defendant Armando Villareal Heredia is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 22.
     Defendant Jesus Quinones Marques, the director of international liaison for the Baja California Attorney General’s Office, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
     Another Mexican cartel leader, Rafael Caro Quintero, was released from a Mexican prison Friday and vanished.
     Caro Quintero ordered the torture and murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. He had served 28 years of a 40-year sentence when a Mexican judge ruled last week that he should have been tried in a state, not federal, court.
     The release outraged U.S. officials, yet was just one more incident in a decades-long charade that shows the close ties between Mexican drug cartels and the highest levels of Mexican government and police forces. Nonetheless, the United States continues to funnel billions of dollars worth of aid and weapons to the corrupt police forces.

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