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Press Release

Member of Sinaloa Cartel Sentenced to Eight Years for Distributing Cocaine and Laundering Drug Proceeds from Chicago to Mexico

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — A high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced today to eight years in federal prison for his role in importing cocaine from Mexico and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds through textile, gold and other transactions.

EDGAR MANUEL VALENCIA-ORTEGA, 29, of Mexico, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He admitted in a plea agreement that he helped broker multi-kilogram cocaine transactions and laundered narcotics proceeds to Mexico.

U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo imposed the 96-month sentence in federal court in Chicago.

“This case is about drug trafficking at the highest levels,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara 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.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has worked closely with federal and local law enforcement agencies to target senior leadership of the Mexican-based Sinaloa Cartel.  Valencia-Ortega is one of more than 20 alleged members of the cartel to be indicted in federal court in Chicago.  The indictments include charges against the cartel’s alleged leader, JOAQUIN “CHAPO” GUZMAN, who is in custody in Mexico.  The Chicago-based investigation has resulted in seizures of approximately $30.8 million, approximately eleven tons of cocaine, 265 kilograms of methamphetamine and 78 kilograms of heroin.

Valencia-Ortega frequently contacted associates of the Sinaloa Cartel regarding narcotics proceeds that needed to be laundered to Mexico from Chicago and Los Angeles.  The drug money was made clean through commodities-based laundering involving textiles, electronics and gold, with Valencia-Ortega receiving a commission on each transaction, according to his plea agreement.  In connection with one such transaction, federal authorities in May 2013 seized approximately $149,050 from a courier in Chicago.

Valencia-Ortega acknowledged in the plea agreement that he was directly involved in the laundering of drug proceeds totaling between $1.5 million and $3.5 million.

Valencia-Ortega also admitted brokering multi-kilogram cocaine transactions that resulted in deliveries from Mexico to customers in the Los Angeles area.  Federal authorities intercepted one such transaction in June 2013, seizing approximately 41 kilograms of cocaine and $325,000 from a courier.  Another federal confiscation in September 2013 resulted in the seizure of approximately 93 kilograms of cocaine from two stash-house operators who were responsible for maintaining and delivering the drugs within the United States.

The 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 government is represented by Mr. Ferrara and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erika Csicsila, Georgia Alexakis, Kathryn Malizia, and Sean Franzblau.

Updated September 23, 2016

Drug Trafficking