Denver, Co - A Mexican drug kingpin who led a fearsome cartel for more than a decade was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison for trafficking drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Miguel Angel Caro Quintero pleaded guilty last fall to one count of racketeering in Colorado and one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Arizona.
Caro Quintero, 46, led the Sonora Cartel, which U.S. authorities said smuggled thousands of tons of marijuana and cocaine to the United States in the 1980s. His brother, former cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero, was convicted in the 1985 torture-slaying of undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena Salazar.
Caro Quintero was arrested in Mexico in 2001 and served seven years in a Mexican prison before being extradited to the U.S. about a year ago. He faced 10 to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement. The defense, and Caro Quintero himself, requested a 10-year sentence.
"I am aware of the fact that I made a mistake as a human being," Caro Quintero said through an interpreter. He said he wanted to be able to spend more time with his family and regrets the way his crimes have affected them.
U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer rejected Quintero's plea for a short sentence.
"Anyone who has committed a crime and is alone in jail has time to reflect on his conduct and come to the fact that all of the crimes and all of the money that comes of the crimes doesn't mean anything at all and what matters now is their family and the persons who he cares for," the judge said.
Caro Quintero appeared in court in faded white prison clothes, and as he was led out of the courtroom said to his son who was in the courtroom, "I love you very much, thank you for coming. Say hello to my children."