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CHICAGO — A former high-ranking member of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for his role in trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs to the Chicago area.
VICENTE ZAMBADA-NIEBLA conspired with other Sinaloa members to import and distribute large quantities of illegal drugs into the United States. From approximately 1996 to 2008, Zambada-Niebla oversaw shipments of narcotics from Central and South America into Mexico and eventually into the U.S. The cartel covertly transported the drugs via private aircraft, submarines, container ships, fishing vessels, buses, tractor-trailers, automobiles, and other methods. Zambada-Niebla also oversaw the corresponding transfer of drug proceeds back to Mexico.
Zambada-Niebla, 44, has been in law enforcement custody since March 2009. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to a drug conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government in its efforts to dismantle the Sinaloa Cartel and one of its rivals, the Beltran-Leyva organization, and hold their leaders accountable in U.S. courts.
U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo imposed the 15-year sentence in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Brian McKnight, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Valuable assistance was provided by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago, and the Chicago Police Department.
“Zambada-Niebla played a major role in flooding the streets of Chicago with dangerous narcotics,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “Not only has he been brought to justice for his actions, but his extensive cooperation led to charges against dozens of other high-level drug traffickers in courts throughout the United States.”
“The DEA law enforcement team and prosecutorial partnerships continue to thrive and this sentencing is just one result of those great partnerships,” said SAC McKnight. “Members of the Sinaloa Cartel’s leadership have been held accountable for their actions. DEA will continue to focus investigative efforts to arrest the remainder of the Sinaloa Cartel leaders who are operating in Mexico to face justice in the United States.”
Zambada-Niebla is one of more than 20 members of the Sinaloa and Beltran-Leyva cartels to be indicted in federal court in Chicago. The investigation has resulted in seizures of approximately $30.8 million, approximately eleven tons of cocaine, 265 kilograms of methamphetamines, and 78 kilograms of heroin.