Gilberto Lerma Plata, a former commander of the Mexican State Police and member of the Gulf Cartel, was sentenced today to serve 151 months in prison for conspiring to import multi-ton quantities of marijuana into the United States, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Lerma Plata, 50, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in the District of Columbia. In addition to his prison term, Lerma Plata was ordered to forfeit $10 billion in drug proceeds as part of a money judgment. At a post-trial hearing, the United States proved that from 2006 to 2011, the Gulf Cartel distributed in excess of 1.4 million kilograms of cocaine and 8,000 metric tons of marijuana. The money judgment represents the gross receipts of the Gulf Cartel’s drug sales into the United States from its principal distribution centers located along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Gilberto Lerma Plata chose his own interests and those of the Gulf Cartel over fulfilling his duty to protect the Mexican people,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As a police officer, the defendant should have fought narco-traffickers; but, instead, he helped those traffickers transport massive quantities of dangerous drugs into the U.S. Today, this former crime fighter will start serving his prison sentence alongside the cartel members he assisted and will be required to forfeit 10 billion dollars in ill-gotten gains - a fitting end to his criminal career.”
On July 29, 2011, Lerma Plata was charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana for importation into the United States. Lerma Plata was arrested in McAllen, Texas, on April 6, 2012. On March 1, 2013, Lerma Plata pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import multi-ton quantities of marijuana into the United States.
Lerma Plata was employed as the commander of the state police in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, Mexico. According to court documents, Lerma Plata was on the Gulf Cartel’s payroll while he was employed by the state police, and he used his position of authority to engage in drug trafficking activities with the cartel. Lerma Plata also contributed to the acts of violence committed by the cartel in its efforts to control drug trafficking routes to the United States by aiding in the procurement of firearms. Intercepted conversations revealed that Lerma Plata and high ranking members of the Gulf Cartel discussed the shipment of large quantities of marijuana for distribution in the United States as well as the transportation from the United States of proceeds from the sales of the drugs. These intercepted conversations also revealed that Lerma Plata obtained AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, as well as pistols, for members of the cartel.
The investigation in this case was led by the DEA’s Houston Field Division and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit and was part of a DOJ Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Adrián Rosales of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section.