Top Drug Trafficker Convicted in Sting Targeting Cartel Leaders

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A man believed to be one of the highest-ranking Mexican cartel leaders arrested in the U.S. pleaded guilty Thursday to trafficking tons of cocaine into the United States.

Thirty-six-year-old Sajid Emilio Quintero Navidad, aka “Cadete,” pleaded guilty Thursday to all conspiracy charges returned by a federal grand jury indictment last September prior to his arrest at the San Ysidro Point of Entry Oct. 11, 2017.

Quintero is cousin to drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero and an associate of high-ranking Mexican cartel leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia aka “Mayo.”

In August 2014, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Quintero as a “Special Designated Narcotics Trafficker” pursuant to the Kingpin Act, which targets foreign drug traffickers. He was identified as coordinating the cross-border trafficking of tons of cocaine from South America through Mexico and into the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

At Thursday’s court hearing, Quintero acknowledged coordinating the transportation and distribution of hundreds of kilograms of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. He also admitted to laundering thousands of U.S. dollars back to Mexico from importing and distributing the drugs in the United States.

U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement that his office’s prosecution of multiple high-level cartel members “is having a significant impact on the global operations of the Mexican drug cartels.”

The case against Quintero is part of a multi-year investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which focuses on identifying and prosecuting high-level members of drug and weapons trafficking and money-laundering organizations. The investigation leading to Quintero’s conviction targeted leaders and associates of the Rafael Caro-Quintero Drug Trafficking Organization and Beltran Leyva Organization.

Quintero’s sentencing is scheduled for April 20. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison.


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