Prosecutors recommend leniency for key cartel witnesses

AP News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 10:34 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago on Wednesday recommended a lenient prison sentence of no more than 16 years for two drug cartel associates turned star witnesses, saying their father is thought to have paid for their cooperation with his life.

Filings in federal court announced a Jan. 27 sentencing date for the twin brothers from Chicago, Pedro and Margarito Flores. Prosecutors say the twins, now in their mid-30s, were once major players in a more than $1 billion U.S.-Mexican drug trafficking network, but then helped dismantle it.

Intelligence from the Flores brothers and secret recordings they made led to the indictments of several high-level figures in the Sinaloa cartel, including Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, prosecutors say. Dozens of lower-level distributors and dealers subordinate to the Flores twins were also indicted.

Guzman, who one Flores brother also secretly recorded, was captured last year in Mexico. Mexican authorities have not said if they might extradite him to face the charges brought against him in Chicago.

"The Flores brothers' unparalleled assistance to the government sufficiently offsets their considerable criminal culpability," the filings say. Prosecutors suggest a sentence at the "low" end of a 10- to 16-year range, though it wasn't immediately clear if the six years the brothers have already been in detention would be subtracted from their eventual sentence.

For their guilty pleas to one count each of drug conspiracy, the twins — given their massive, coast-to-coast operation — would otherwise have faced the prospect of a life prison sentence.

Their own lucrative Chicago-based network extended to New York and Los Angeles, and several other cities. In their hometown alone, court documents say the brothers distributed two tons of cocaine a month. According to Wednesday's filings, the twins also smuggled some $1.8 billion in drug profits across the border to Mexico.

But in arguing for a sharply reduced punishment, the filings note, among other things, the fate of their father.

Despite warnings that he should not go back to Mexico, he did return in 2009 after word had already spread his sons were cooperating with investigators, according to the Wednesday filings. Within days he was "kidnapped and presumed killed;" a note left at the scene of the kidnapping indicated the father was taken because the twins had turned on their cartel cohorts.

The brothers and their families will now live in fear the rest of their lives of also being killed, the filings say.

"They are essentially surrounded on all sides by some of the most violent actors in the criminal sphere," prosecutors wrote. "The barbarism of the cartels is legend, with a special place reserved for those who cooperate."

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