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Press Release

Head of the Gulf Cartel indicted

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

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Jose Alfredo Cardenas-Martinez aka El Contador has been indicted in the Southern District of Texas on various charges related to his position as the head of the Cardenas family drug trafficking operation known as the Cartel del Golfo, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

A federal grand jury sitting in Brownsville returned the nine-count indictment Nov. 10, 2021. Cardenas-Martinez is currently in custody in Mexico pending litigation on the U.S.’s extradition request.

According to the charges, Cardenas-Martinez, 42, has been the head of the Gulf Cartel aka Cartel del Golfo or CDG since 2015. He became CDG’s leader following the arrest and later conviction of Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez aka El Cos. Costilla-Sanchez was CDG’s leader following the arrest and conviction of Cardenas-Martinez’s uncle - Oziel Cardenas-Guillen. Cardenas-Guillen is currently in federal custody serving his sentence. Costilla-Sanchez was also convicted in the Southern District of Texas and is awaiting sentencing. The Gulf Cartel is headquartered in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Cardenas-Martinez is charged in an international conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth, cocaine and fentanyl. The indictment also alleges he possessed with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of meth, five kilograms of cocaine and 400 grams or more of fentanyl. 

As head of the CDG, Cardenas-Martinez allegedly coordinated the shipment of narcotics to the United States for illegal sale across the country. According to the charges, the conspiracy to transport cocaine, meth and fentanyl into the United States began in 2015 and continued through 2021.

“The arrest of Jose Alfredo Cardenas-Martinez serves a tough blow to the Gulf Cartel Organization,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux. “It is the culmination of a successful international drug investigation which should disrupt the Gulf Cartel’s ability to smuggle drugs into Texas and other communities.”

“Through the joint investigation from our office in Harlingen, in coordination with our Attaché in Mexico and other partners, we were able to gather significant evidence that was instrumental in the case against “El Contador,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to coordinate to dismantle any suspected transnational criminal organizations that threaten public safety.”

If convicted, Cardenas-Martinez faces up to life in prison and a possible $10 million fine. The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture of any proceeds he made and property used to facilitate his drug trafficking business.

This prosecution is part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation Cold Blooded. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The DEA and HSI conducted the joint investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Betancourt is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated March 24, 2022

Drug Trafficking