San Diego, California — A man who helped make the Arellano Felix family one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison Monday after nearly a decade of legal wrangling.
Jesus "Chuy" Labra, 61, received the maximum sentence Monday at the prosecution's request. Labra sought a 25-year prison term and apologized for his actions to U.S. District Judge Larry Burns, said his attorney, Eugene Iredale.
Labra pleaded guilty in October to dealing marijuana and cocaine. He was arrested while watching his son's soccer game in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2000, when the cartel was near the height of its power. It took more than eight years to extradite him to the U.S.
Jesus "Chuy" Labra Aviles, left, walks past a U.S. Marshall as he and a group of men alleged to be members of notorious Mexican drug cartels are escorted from the federal courthouse after making their first court appearance in the U.S. Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 in Houston.
Labra tapped extensive connections with Colombian cocaine traffickers and Mexican marijuana growers and regularly participated in the cartel's major decisions, according to a 2003 indictment.
He was accused of smuggling marijuana across the border to the United States beginning in the 1970s. Labra later moved into cocaine when Colombian suppliers shifted trafficking routes from the Caribbean and Florida to ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Labra's attorneys had argued their client was subjected to extreme physical and psychological abuse in Mexican prison, allowed one hour a day outside his cell from 2000 to 2005. They said Labra was often woken in the middle of the night to stand naked outside for up to two hours while his cell was searched.
"We had thought he had served substantial time in custody in Mexico before extradition under onerous conditions and because he hadn't participated in any violence, we thought a (sentence) reduction was fair," Iredale said. "The court wasn't of the same feeling."
Also sentenced was Armando Martinez Duarte, 55, a former top security chief in Mexicali for the Arellano Felix gang. Burns sentenced him to eight years and three months in federal prison. Prosecutors sought the maximum 20 years in prison, while defense attorneys asked for 14 years, four months.
In 1983, he became a Mexican state police officer and U.S. legal resident. In 1989, he took courses at Arizona Western College in Yuma and became a federal police officer.