Drug kingpin Jorge Costilla-Sanchez has pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy drug charges and two counts of assault on a federal officer. 46-year-old Costilla-Sanchez was head of the infamous Gulf Cartel (CDG) in the years following the arrest of its supreme leader – and his mentor - Osiel Cardenas in 2003.
Since the 1990s, the CDG has been the lead transnational narcotics trafficking and money laundering organization in Northern Tamaulipas, Mexico. During his time atop the Gulf Cartel, Costilla-Sanchez was responsible for making strategic decisions and trying to manage various factions within the Cartel.
By the late 1990s up until his arrest in September 2012, Costilla-Sanchez remained in control, authorities say, providing leadership to the Gulf Cartel which resulted in the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.
These narcotics enter the country at the Ports of Entry in Hidalgo and Cameron County, along the Rio Grande River and through lanchas arriving along the National Seashore at Padre Island. Once imported into the U.S., traffickers here would transport the product to various cities throughout the United States.
Profits were returned to the Cartel in Mexico. Money laundering efforts to promote this scheme included bulk cash currency smuggling to Northern Mexico, the use of funnel accounts to wire money into banking accounts for eventual repatriation to the CDG and the purchase of assets to disguise the illicit nature of these drug proceeds.
Other key parts of the CDG drug trafficking organization were the promotion of public corruption as well as the collection of a “piso” or tax from business owners, illegal alien smugglers and independent narcotics traffickers in Mexico which would allow them to operate.
During his guilty plea today, Costilla-Sanchez acknowledged his participation in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute kilogram amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
He also admitted his involvement in the brazen assault of two federal officers. In November 1999, Costilla-Sanchez was with his boss Cardenas when two U.S. federal agents were seen near a residence owned by the cartel.
Cardenas called out on a two-way radio to his security team and ordered them to stop the agents. The CDG had at least four vehicles deployed to force the U.S. agents to stop in broad daylight on a heavily traveled street in Matamoros.
Costilla-Sanchez also arrived at the stop and carried a pistol to the encounter. Several CDG members also pointed AK-47s at the agents who felt in fear of losing their lives. Killing American officers of the law, however, is a sure way to get yourself dead or locked up. After some tense moments, the narcos pulled back, leaving the agents to ponder how close they came to being murdered by men they were tasked to bring down.
The ‘encounter’ ended up costing the Mexican drug kings. Cardenas and another co-defendant - Juan Carlos De La Cruz Reyna – also pleaded guilty to the assault and were both sentenced to prison. Now Costilla-Sanchez will join them. His sentencing has been set for January 4, 2018. At that time, he faces up to life in federal prison.
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