Two Gulf Cartel Bosses Sent to US Prisons, Both Worked Out Plea Deals

AP Photo
AP Photo

Two high-ranking members within the Gulf Cartel caught in the United States received lengthy prison sentences following plea deals with American prosecutors.

Juan Francisco “Comandante Panochitas” Tamez Saenz received a 30-year sentence from a U.S. federal judge in Beaumont this week. Benicio “Comandante Veneno” Lopez received close to six years in prison earlier this month.

Tamez Saenz, an illegal alien, was initially arrested by federal agents in the border city of Edinburg last October; Breitbart Texas was the first news outlet to report on the arrest at the time and the only news outlet present during his initial hearing in McAllen.

Juan Francisco (Comandante Panochitas)  Saenz Tamez poses with his late mother in this undated photograph leaked to Breitbart Texas

Juan Francisco (Comandante Panochitas) Saenz Tamez poses with his late mother in this undated photograph leaked to Breitbart Texas

The case against Tamez came from an indictment out of Beaumont where he was later transferred.  Tamez had inherited the leadership of the Gulf Cartel but during his short reign he was not able to keep the remnant of the criminal organization together.

Tamez was just one of various cartel bosses that were caught by U.S. Authorities on the Texas border following a series of internal conflicts within the Gulf Cartel, which eventually resulted in two factions of the criminal organization going to war last February.

Not long after his arrest, Tamez pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges as part of a plea deal in exchange for a lighter sentence, Breitbart Texas previously reported.

Benicio Lopez, another commander within the Gulf Cartel has been in and out of jails in recent years. His charge was not drug trafficking but being a felon in possession of a firearm. As Breitbart Texas previously reported, federal authorities found a shotgun and a handgun at his ritzy apartment in the border city of Mission when they arrested him in 2013 in connection with a 2010 crime.

Jail photograph of Gulf Cartel Commander Benicio "Veneno" Lopez

Jail photograph of Gulf Cartel Commander Benicio “Veneno” Lopez

That arrest was tied to a 2010 home invasion that had been ordered by the Gulf Cartel in the border city of San Juan, which resulted in a victim dying. At the time of his 2013 arrest, Lopez gained release by managing to cover the $1.3 million bond.

In September 2014, Roma Police and investigators with the Starr County district attorney’s office arrested Lopez in connection with the kidnapping and torture of a local man over a minor dispute. Lopez openly boasted about being Comandante Veneno of Los Zetas as he tied and repeatedly pistol whipped the local man over a Xanax pill, court documents that Breitbart Texas was granted access to revealed.

Now that Lopez has been sentenced he still has to face the state charges in both Starr County and in Hidalgo County that include kidnapping, capital murder, and arson.

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