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Federal judge in Chicago sentences “El Chapo” money launderer “Zoro” to 8 years in prison

September 24, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Federal judge in Chicago sentences “El Chapo” money launderer “Zoro” to 8 years in prison

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A federal judge handed a cartel money launderer, linked to Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, an eight-year prison sentence on Friday.

Edgar “El Zorro” or ‘The Fox” Valencia Ortega pled guilty in April to a money laundering conspiracy. Prosecutors say he laundered between $1.5 million and $3.5 million to Mexico for the Sinaloa cartel.

The eight-year sentence given to the convicted money launderer was the shortest prison term out of any of the 19 co-conspirators indicted in the case in Chicago Federal Court.

Federal District Court Judge Ruben Castillo said the 29-year-old Ortega started “out right at the top” of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, laundering millions of dollars of illicit drug proceeds and also smuggled 150 kilos of cocaine into the U.S.

During sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara did concede that Ortega was the lowest-level player out of the 19 defendants in the case and his time as an operator for the Sinaloa criminal organization was albeit brief, given he only had a two-year run as a financial operator and international drug smuggler before his arrest.

Prior to becoming a top money launderer, Ortega came from an affluent family who owned a meatpacking business in Guadalajara and grew up with the children of high-ranking members of the Sinaloa cartel.

Prosecutors said those friendships allowed Ortega to immediately start out facilitating major drug deals and also helped him quickly climb the ranks of the Sinaloa criminal organization.

“I’ve said from time to time that one doesn’t start out at the top of an international narcotic trafficking ring, I have to admit, you were the exception to that rule,” Castillo said.

“There were no small transactions that got you started. You had the capability of starting out right at the top,” the judge added.

Feds also say that Ortega earned a commission in cocaine deals he brokered, including a June 2013 transaction he helped negotiate with a customer in Los Angeles, which led authorities to seize 41 kilograms of cocaine and $325,000 from a courier tasked with delivering the drugs.

In Sept. 2013, federal agents also intercepted another 93 kilos of cocaine while Ortega was in the midst of another deal, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Prosecutors did assert that Ortega only faced charges involving the orchestrating of financial transactions and trafficking of narcotics but never implicated him in any acts of violence perpetrated by the cartel.

However, his brief career with the Sinaloa Cartel did cost him after his brother and one-time co-defendant, Hector, was executed last year in Mexico, which authorities believe was tied to drug trafficking.

“This social circle Mr. Valencia Ortega and his brother grew up in provided them access to individuals engaged in large scale criminal activity relatively quickly — much more quickly, at least, than someone without such a network. It also provided him with credibility that outsiders did not have, his defense attorney Lisa Wood wrote in a pre-sentencing court memo last week to Castillo.

Ortega addressed the judge through a translator in a brief statement; he apologized to the court, the U.S., and his family, specifically his mother.

“I know that she has suffered through this in a way one cannot imagine,” Ortega said.

He added, “Because of the loss of my brother and because I’m locked up, this business that my brother and I selected, it only leaves you with these two roads: Death and jail. That’s all I can say,”

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