Aurelio Cano Flores, a Mexican national and high ranking member of the Gulf Cartel, was sentenced today to serve 35 years in prison for conspiring to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine and 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).
Cano Flores, 40, aka “Yankee” and “Yeyo,” was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein in the District of Columbia. In addition to his prison term, Cano Flores was ordered to forfeit $15 billion in drug proceeds as part of a money judgment. At a post-trial hearing, the United States proved that from 2000 to 2010, 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.
“For over a decade, Aurelio Cano Flores worked with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world to import massive quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As a leader of the Gulf Cartel, one of the most notorious criminal enterprises in Mexico or the United States, he endangered the lives of innocent people on both sides of the border. As a result of today’s sentencing, he will spend 35 years in federal prison as punishment for his crimes.”
“DEA and its partners use every law enforcement tool possible to bring to justice drug cartel leaders and facilitators who inflict damage on both sides of the border,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “Aurelio Cano-Flores used his position as a Mexican police officer to help one of the most violent and brutal drug trafficking organizations in the world bring vast amounts of drugs into the United States. Like many other cartel leaders, he posed a threat to the citizens of both the United States and Mexico. We are confident and pleased that justice was served today by the pronouncement of his lengthy U.S. prison sentence."
Following a trial that lasted over two weeks, Cano Flores was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 26, 2013, of one count of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, knowing and intending the substances would be unlawfully imported into the United States.
Cano Flores was one of 19 defendants charged in a superseding indictment on Nov. 4, 2010, with drug trafficking offenses. He was extradited to the United States from Mexico in August 2011 and was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial.
Evidence presented at trial included dozens of lawfully intercepted telephone conversations between Cano Flores and other leaders of the Gulf Cartel, as well as testimony from previously convicted Cartel members. According to the trial evidence, Cano Flores began working for the Gulf Cartel in approximately 2001, while he was serving as a police officer in Mexico. During his time as a police officer, Cano Flores recruited others into the Gulf Cartel, collected drug money and escorted large shipments of cartel drugs to the U.S. border.
Cano Flores ultimately rose through the ranks of the Gulf Cartel to become a major transporter of narcotics within Mexico to the U.S. border and became the Cartel’s top representative in the important border town of Los Guerra, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As the “plaza boss” for Los Guerra, Cano Flores oversaw the mass distribution of cocaine and marijuana into the United States on a daily basis. Testimony established that between 2000 and 2010, the Gulf Cartel grew from an organization of only 100 members controlling three border towns to an organization of 25,000 people controlling the drug trade over approximately half of Mexico. As established during the trial, the means and methods of this conspiracy included corruption, murder, kidnapping and intimidation.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Darrin McCullough and Sean Torriente of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the provisional arrest and extradition of Cano Flores, and the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section provided assistance at sentencing. The investigation in this case was led by the DEA Houston Field Division’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit. The case was part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s Operation “Day of Reckoning.”