U.S.: Former Mexican cartel kingpin sentenced to life for multi-billion drug smuggling

Published: 07 April 2017


Alfredo Beltran Leyva (Photo: U.S. Federal Government)

By Vanja Lakic

Alfredo Beltran Leyva, an ex drug cartel leader once allied with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman received a life sentence in a U.S. prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to running a drug trafficking operation that smuggled tons of cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S.

A U.S. judge ordered Beltran Leyva to give up more than US$529 million as an conservative estimate of the amount of cocaine that his group, called the Beltran Leyva cartel moved into the U.S. for nearly three decades.

Dubbed a "Goliath" of drug trafficking by authorities, the 46 year-old led the group between the 1990s until he was extradited from Mexico to the U.S. in 2014.

His once-powerful operation relied on killings, torture, kidnappings and other violence to amass billions in profit.

Beltran Leyva led a "campaign of violence and fear that gripped communities across North America," acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said.

Under his February plea agreement, Beltran Leyva said that his cartel financed and obtained multi-ton shipments of cocaine for decades. Prosecutors said the drugs were transported to Culiacan, Sinaloa and other points in Mexico, where billions of dollars in U.S. drug proceeds were collected.

Led by Alfredo and his brothers, the Beltran Leyva group was once an arm of "El Chapo" Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel. The groups split after Alfredo’s 2008 arrest, which one of his brothers blamed on Sinaloa leaders.

The Beltran Leyva cartel further disintegrated in 2009 when members of the gang were arrested and killed.

Guzman, who was extradited to the U.S. in January, awaits federal trial in Brooklyn.