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Former Mexican drug lord Óscar Nava Valencia testifies in during drug trafficking trial in Texas federal court

June 15, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Former Mexican drug lord Óscar Nava Valencia testifies in during drug trafficking trial in Texas federal court

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On Tuesday, former Mexican drug lord Óscar Nava Valencia also known as “El Lobo” or “The Wolf” testified in San Antonio Federal Court how he colluded closely with members of a Texas family in the Rio Grande Valley to smuggle large quantities of cocaine into the United States.

The 46-year-old Valencia told the court how he began his drug trafficking career in Reynosa, located just across the border from McAllen, sneaking marijuana into Texas.

While in Texas, he got in touch with members of the Villarreal Arelis family, including Reymundo Villarreal Arelis, who is standing trial this week for money laundering and conspiring to distribute drugs.

If found guilty, he faces up to life behind bars.

Reymundo Villarreal Arelis is led on into San Antonio Federal Court on Wednesday where he is standing trial on drug trafficking and money laundering charges

Óscar Nava Valencia ultimately rose to be head of the Milenio Cartel, which was launched in the 1970s in the Mexican state of Michoacan and eventually was absorbed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel, a former DEA official revealed on Tuesday.

“El Lobo” indicated that he first met the Villarreal Arelis family, also known as Los Piojos, which is Spanish for “lice,” when they were smuggling drugs for other dealers, charging a fee to smuggle the product across their property near the Rio Grande and get it to the U.S.

In 2001, as the Gulf Cartel came to power in the region across the border from Texas, Nava said, he moved to the western city of Guadalajara. Seven years later, Gilberto Villarreal Arelis, a fugitive who’s the leader of his family’s criminal group, asked if he could buy cocaine.

“I would give them part of mine because I saw what they were doing was working,” Nava added. “When I met them, they were crossing. When they looked me up, they had already started to buy, and they had established routes and distribution here in the U.S.”

By the time Mexican forces apprehended him in 2009, he and the Piojos were joining their drug loads and smuggling at least 200 kilos of cocaine on a monthly basis into the U.S., most of which ended up in the Houston area, according to the San Antonio Express.

Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia (seated Left),  and other alleged members of the Valencia Drug Cartel during their arrest in 2009 (ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

Nava, who said he’s testifying with the hope of cutting the 25-year sentence he’s serving, wasn’t asked about his participation in the Milenio Cartel. Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the DEA and author of “Deal,” said that Nava took over the group after its longtime leader was apprehended in 2003.

“Óscar Nava Valencia, to ensure the survivability of the cartel, joined forces with the Sinaloa cartel,” Vigil stated. “Chapo feels that Óscar Nava may not have leadership qualities, at least what he required, so what he did was put them under the command of Ignacio Coronel, ‘Nacho Coronel,’” one of Guzmán’s top associates.

After Nava’s was arrested in 2009 and Coronel was killed the following year, the cartel was dissolved, Vigil added.

The organization would eventually evolve into Mexico’s most feared organized crime syndicate, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia “El Lobo” testified with the hope of getting his 25-year sentence reduced

Testimony revealed that the Villarreal Arelis family was tied to the Gulf Cartel, which often battled with the Sinaloa. It’s not unique that a supplier like Nava would sell to a smuggler linked to a rival, according to Vigil.

“When you have a business, these criminal groups, they need to have different sources of supply, because one source may not have drugs available,” he stated. “It’s good to have different sources, so you always have a steady supply. It’s very typical.”

Nava asserted that Reymundo Villarreal Arelis was there at negotiations over smuggling in Reynosa and Guadalajara.

On cross-examination, defense lawyer Guy Womack hammered Óscar Nava Valencia with questions about why, in a meeting with agents last year, he mentioned other family members, but not Reymundo Villarreal Arelis.

“You never said the name ‘Mundo’ or ‘Reymundo,’ did you?” Womack said.

Nava replied that he was talking about a particular drug deal that Reymundo Villarreal Arelis was not involved in. Womack added that aside from Gilberto Villarreal Arelis, all the other family members who were arrested last year have pleaded guilty, leaving Nava with limited opportunities to reduce his sentence.

“You don’t know of Reymundo having responsibility for moving drugs,” Womack said, later adding: “This is your only chance to get a reduction in your sentence from the government.”

The trial is expected to continue through the week.

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