Ildefonso Ortiz | The Monitor
McALLEN — A former commander with the Tamaulipas State Police and ranking member of the Gulf Cartel is to spend close to 12 1/2 years in prison.
Thursday morning, Gilberto Lerma Plata went before U.S District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., where she handed down the sentence and ordered Lerma to forfeit a whopping $10 billion in drug proceeds as part of a money judgment against him and the Gulf Cartel, a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice shows.
GULF CARTELThe money judgment was based on the prosecution’s assertion that during the time that Lerma was active in the Gulf Cartel, the organization distributed more than 1.4 million kilograms or cocaine and more than 8,000 metric tons of marijuana. The money judgment represents the gross receipts of the Gulf Cartel’s drug sales into the U.S. from its distribution centers along the U.S.-Mexico Border, records show.
The Gulf Cartel is a crime syndicate based in northern Tamaulipas that is involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human smuggling, contract killing, kidnapping, extortion and other criminal activities.
A grand jury handed up a sealed indictment against Lerma on July 29, 2011, accusing him of drug conspiracy charges and drug smuggling for his role as a leader in the drug trafficking organization. Federal agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Lerma in McAllen on April 6, 2012, and he pleaded guilty March 1, 2013, to the conspiracy charges and the importation of several tons of drugs into the country.
GOOD COP GONE BAD
Lerma also aided the organization by procuring firearms for its foot soldiers, who regularly engage in firefights with rival organizations along the Mexican border. Recorded conversations between Lerma and other Gulf Cartel bosses point to not only the smuggling of drugs, but also the obtaining of AK-47 and AR-15 rifles for the crime syndicate. POLITICAL TIES
According to various U.S. federal agents not authorized to speak publicly, Lerma is a relative of former Tamaulipas Gov. Manuel Cavazos Lerma, who now serves as a senator in Mexico.
While U.S. authorities have never made any accusations against Cavazos Lerma, prosecutors have seized assets from his successor, former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba.
In 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office seized a luxury condominium on South Padre Island belonging to Yarrington as well as two homes bought by him for his mistress using the proceeds of illegal activities, court records show. According to the civil complaint filed in the seizure, the properties were bought with money from the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.
Sources: Monitor, Menytimes