December 15, 2017
Monday, November 24, 2014

Mexican drug trafficker sentenced in Chicago to 22 years

A federal judge has sentenced a Mexican drug trafficker to 22 years in prison for shipping 276 kilos of cocaine to Chicago hidden in railway cars in a case that highlighted the city's role as a hub for distributing tons of cocaine throughout the United States from 1998 to 2008.

Judge Ruben Castillo said there was no proof Alfredo Vazquez Hernandez, 59, was a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa cartel, as prosecutors alleged. But in handing down a long sentence for a first-time offender who had pleaded guilty, he said he had trouble believing Vazquez had never dealt drugs previously.

"Given the amount, it's nonsensical to think this was this defendant's inaugural voyage into cocaine trafficking," Castillo said.

Vazquez, who lived for decades in southern California, spoke briefly at the hearing to ask for forgiveness and defense attorney Paul Brayman emphasized the lack of evidence of any connections with the Sinaloa cartel.

Federal prosecutors have spelled his last name Vasquez, but his son Gabriel Vazquez said the correct spelling was Vazquez.

Vazquez was arrested in Mexico in 2011 and spent almost two years in prison there before being extradited to the United States.

At the hearing, federal prosecutor Michael Ferrara reiterated the allegation that Vazquez was logistics coordinator for the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, who is in jail in Mexico. Prosecutors say Vazquez arranged airplanes, submarines, trains and trucks to transport cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and on to the United States.

Prosecutors based much of their case on testimony from two informants, twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, who are in protective custody and also face federal drug trafficking charges.

The brothers, who stored cocaine, heroin and marijuana in a Chicago warehouse for distribution to 30 wholesale customers in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit and Los Angeles, testified that Vazquez had told them he coordinated flights of tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.

According to their grand jury testimony, revealed in court documents filed in November, the Flores brothers said they began doing business with Vazquez in 2006 and set up a company to import furniture in trains that were also packed with cocaine.

At the height of the business in 2007 they were distributing up to 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg) of cocaine per month.

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Tags:  Mexico  drug cartels  US  Vázquez  

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