Gulf Cartel Boss Gets 20 Year Federal Sentence in Texas

Gulf Cartel Boss Gets 20 Year Federal Sentence in Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — One of the top bosses of the Gulf Cartel will spend 20 years in prison on multiple drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. 

On Monday morning, Rafael “Comandante 900 or El Junior” Cardenas Vela went before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen who sentenced him to 20 years in prison and ordered he pay $5 million as well as turn over a house, in the border city of Brownsville, that was bought with drug money.

Cardenas Vela is the nephew of legendary cartel boss Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the man who during the mid-1990’s and until his extradition in 2007 turned Gulf Cartel into one of the most powerful and feared criminal organizations in Mexico as well as being the man responsible for creating the Los Zetas Cartel.

Following his uncle’s footsteps, the 41-year-old Cardenas Vela joined the Gulf Cartel in 2000 and over time earned his name as a fierce warlord who commanded crews of cartel hitmen that rode in armored trucks and had access to rocket launchers, automatic weapons and explosives.

Cardenas Vela had been in charge of the Gulf Cartel’s operations in Matamoros, Mexico. However, following a series of internal struggles, he moved illegally to the U.S. and set up his base of operations at a Texas ranch in Rio Hondo, at a security house in Brownsville and a condominium in Port Isabel.  That condominium in the resort town is where federal authorities arrested him in October 2011. 

After his capture, Cardenas Vela pleaded guilty to the charges and became a star witness for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, helping convict fellow Gulf Cartel commander Juan Roberto Rincon.

“Today’s sentence once again demonstrates that serious consequences await those who chose to engage in this type of criminal activity, said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala whose agency led the investigation in the case.  

Follow Ildefonso Ortiz on Twitter @ildefonsoortiz