Ex-cartel figure sentenced to 20 years in prison

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2014 4:40 PM

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — U.S. authorities say a former top lieutenant for the Gulf drug cartel has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for organizing large shipments of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S.

Rafael Cardenas Vela was sentenced Monday in Brownsville. Cardenas Vela earlier pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge for distributing the drugs from 2000 to 2011.

The 41-year-old must pay a $1 million fine and forfeit $5 million and property he has in Brownsville.

Cardenas Vela is the nephew of former Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen. He ran the Rio Bravo "plaza" for the cartel from 2009 to 2011. He was arrested in Port Isabel in 2011 after a power struggle forced him to flee Mexico.

In 2012, he described cartel operations during testimony against a cartel member.