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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

Thursday, December 1, 2016

High-Ranking Member of Two Mexican Drug Cartels Sentenced to 27 Years in U.S. Prison for Shipping Narcotics to Chicago

CHICAGO — A high-ranking associate of two Mexican drug trafficking organizations has been sentenced to 27 years in U.S. prison for his role in transporting large amounts of cocaine to the Chicago area.

MANUEL FERNANDEZ-VALENCIA, also known as Manuel Fernandez-Navarro, used the shared resources of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran-Leyva Organization to smuggle large quantities of narcotics into the United States from Mexico.  The cartels covertly transported the drugs via private aircraft, submarines, container ships, fishing vessels, buses, tractor-trailers and automobiles.  The narcotics were initially stashed in safe houses in southern California before being shipped to various parts of the United States, including the Chicago area.  The drug trade was protected by guards armed with handguns and assault rifles.

Fernandez-Valencia, 48, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances.  U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman on Wednesday imposed the 324-month sentence in federal court in Chicago.

“The defendant was operating at the very highest levels of large and violent international drug trafficking organizations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erika Csicsila argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.  “The damage that those drugs, and the violence resulting from the drug trade, have caused to communities in Chicago and elsewhere is immeasurable.”

Fernandez-Valencia’s sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has worked closely with federal and local law enforcement agencies to target senior leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran-Leyva Organization.  Fernandez-Valencia is one of more than 20 alleged members of the cartels to be indicted in federal court in Chicago, including the Sinaloa Cartel’s leader, JOAQUIN “CHAPO” GUZMAN, and the former head of the Beltran-Leyva Organization, the late ARTURO BELTRAN-LEYVA.  The Chicago-based investigations have resulted in seizures of approximately $30.8 million, approximately eleven tons of cocaine, 265 kilograms of methamphetamine and 78 kilograms of heroin. 

Fernandez-Valencia has been in custody since his arrest in his native Mexico in 2010.  In his plea declaration, he admitted conspiring with twin brothers from Chicago to distribute cocaine in the fall of 2008.  The twins, PEDRO FLORES and MARGARITO FLORES, operated a Chicago-based wholesale distribution network for both the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltran-Leyva Organization.  The cocaine was purchased in South America and delivered to Fernandez-Valencia in Mexicali, a city in northwest Mexico, before being smuggled into the U.S., according to his plea declaration.  In three separate raids in November 2008 federal agents seized from Fernandez-Valencia more than a ton of cocaine and more than 93 kilograms of methamphetamine.

The Flores brothers pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in 2012 and were each sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

The government is represented by Ms. Csicsila and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Ferrara, Kathryn Malizia, Georgia Alexakis, Sean Franzblau, and James Durkin.

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime
Updated December 1, 2016