A federal judge sentenced one of the top Los Zetas cartel leaders to 30 years in a U.S. federal prison for his role in helping smuggle ton quantities of drugs and playing a role in the raging violence that continues to plague Mexico. The former cartel boss turned into a government witness following his arrest.
Los Zetas top leader Ivan “Talivan or L50” Velazquez Caballero,47, went before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez who handed down the sentence and ordered the forfeiture of $10 million in assets, information provided to Breitbart Texas by the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed. The cartel boss, who derives his name from a play on words over his first name and not the terrorist organization, has been in U.S. custody since his extradition in 2013. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of drug trafficking and money laundering in the border city of McAllen, Texas, in April 2014.
After his extradition and guilty plea, Velazques Caballero became a government witness and testified against other cartel members in an effort to get a lighter sentence. The former cartel boss originally faced the possibility of a life term in prison. The original charges stem from a 2010 indictment charging the entire leadership structure of the Los Zetas cartel with 47 federal charges including drug conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to kidnap and murder U. S. citizens in a foreign country, use of juveniles to commit a violent crime, and multiple other charges.
Velazquez Caballero, a native of the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, joined the ranks of the Los Zetas at a time when the criminal organization was still a part of the Gulf Cartel. Using the high vehicle traffic the international bridges into Laredo, Texas, as well as the city’s lack of border security, Los Zetas cartel members moved ton-quantities of cocaine and marijuana into major U.S. cities.
By 2010, the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas went to war over drug trafficking territories and a series of betrayals that eventually led to further fracturing within both cartels. Prior to his capture, Velazquez and his brother had been at odds with former Los Zetas boss Miguel Angel “40” Trevino Morales and had sought a short-lived alliance with one faction of the Gulf Cartel.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.