Texas-born drug lord gets 11 life terms for smuggling Criminal also must pay $128 million in fines

February 01, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOUSTON -- A federal judge sentenced drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego yesterday to serve 11 life terms and ordered him to pay fines totaling more than $128 million, ending one of the most ambitious and costly joint U.S.-Mexican efforts to dismantle a major Mexican narcotics cartel.

Those penalties, along with an order permitting the U.S. government to seize an additional $350 million in Garcia Abrego's assets, came almost four months after a federal jury convicted the Texas-born criminal on charges that he smuggled tons of cocaine and marijuana through Mexico into America and laundered millions of dollars in U.S. drug profits as head of Mexico's notorious Matamoros-based Gulf cartel.

After U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein sentenced Garcia Abrego, who stood with hands clasped, wearing interpreter's headphones, U.S. Assistant Attorney Melissa Annis told reporters that she knew of no attempts by Garcia Abrego or the government to negotiate a lesser sentence in exchange for the drug lord's cooperation in future criminal investigations.

Defense attorneys, who had labeled Garcia Abrego's three-week trial a "show" and the 50 prosecution witnesses "rats," also denied that their client was attempting to cut a deal with the government. "We have never talked about that. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever," attorney Tony Canales said, adding that the defense plans an appeal in the case.

Garcia Abrego's trial was closely watched by U.S. and Mexican prosecutors searching for clues to what is known in Mexico as "narco-corruption" -- payoffs by drug cartels to police commanders and politicians for official protection of Mexican drug routes.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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