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Press Release

Former Gulf Cartel Leader Convicted of Drug Conspiracy and Assaults on Federal Officers

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Jorge Costilla-Sanchez has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana as well as two counts of assault on a federal officer, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. 


Costilla-Sanchez, 46, was the head of the Gulf Cartel (CDG) for some of the years following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas in 2003 and before Costilla-Sanchez’s arrest in September 2012. Since the 1990s, the CDG has been the lead transnational narcotics trafficking and money laundering organization in Northern Tamaulipas, Mexico.


During his association with the CDG, Costilla-Sanchez was responsible for making strategic decisions and trying to manage various factions within the CDG. From 1998-2012, Costilla-Sanchez helped provide leadership to the CDG which resulted in the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. CDG narcotics enter the country at the Ports of Entry in Hidalgo and Cameron County, along the Rio Grande River and through lanchas arriving along the National Seashore at Padre Island. Once imported into the U.S., traffickers here would transport the narcotics to various cities throughout the United States. Profits from the sale of narcotics were returned to the CDG in Mexico. Money laundering efforts to promote this scheme included bulk cash currency smuggling to Northern Mexico, the use of funnel accounts to wire money into banking accounts for eventual repatriation to the CDG and the purchase of assets to disguise the illicit nature of these drug proceeds.


Other key parts of the CDG drug trafficking organization were the promotion of public corruption as well as the collection of a “piso” or tax from business owners, illegal alien smugglers and independent narcotics traffickers in Mexico which would allow them to operate. 


During his guilty plea today, Costilla-Sanchez acknowledged his participation in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute kilogram amounts of cocaine and marijuana.    


He also admitted his involvement in the assault of two federal officers. In November 1999, Costilla-Sanchez was with Cardenas when two U.S. federal agents were seen near a CDG residence. Cardenas called out on a two-way radio to his security team and ordered them to stop the agents. The CDG had at least four vehicles deployed to force the U.S. agents to stop in broad daylight on a heavily traveled street in Matamoros. Costilla-Sanchez also arrived at the stop and carried a pistol to the encounter. Several CDG members also pointed AK-47s at the agents who felt in fear of losing their lives. Cardenas and another co-defendant - Juan Carlos De La Cruz Reyna – also pleaded guilty to the assault and were both sentenced to prison.


Costilla-Sanchez’s sentencing has been set for Jan. 4, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle. At that time, Costilla-Sanchez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison. He is also subject to a money judgement regarding the proceeds he obtained during his participation in the conspiracy. That amount will be determined at the time of sentencing.


The FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and Brownsville Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young, Toni Trevino and Karen Betancourt are prosecuting the case.

Updated September 26, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime