Victor Emilio Cazares Gasteluem sentenced
It's taken almost a decade for Cazares, the elusive trafficker, who owned large homes in Culiacan, including one with a waterpark, to be humbled in front of a US District Judge. In 2007, Cazares, along with dozens of others was indicted in Operation Inland Emperor, which targeted several large scale Sinaloa based trafficking networks. The operation yielded 402 arrests, 45 million in cash, and ton quantities of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.
Cazares, working with a transportation cell he organized in Mexicali, imported thousands of kilos of cocaine into the US, supplying distributors across the country. Drug shipments were flown by private plane, semi truck, and personal vehicles. After the indictment, he was seen in Culiacan, with a dozen bodyguards, and Mexican authorities wouldn't arrest him, as the US counterparts watched in frustration.
Sometime later, Cazares, rumored to be in debt to Ismael Zambada for lost cocaine shipments, and suspected of cooperating with US authorities, fled Sinaloa. His homes were maintained in his absence. He was finally arrested in Guadalajara in 2012, having changed his appearance substantially. He was extradited this year.
The last time Cazares was in the United States, he pled to a judge, that he was a landscaper, who had a cocaine habit, after being arrested with a personal use amount. He left to Mexico shortly thereafter, and established himself in extradited. The sentencing in a way marks the end of an era, which was the Sinaloa Cartel's rise to dominance, and near international infamy, as the escapades of Chapo Guzman captivated many, the notorious trafficker becoming fodder for memes and social media posts.
The mid 2000's, in the lull after the collapse of the Arellano Felix brothers, the extradition of extradited Cardenas, and the shaky leadership of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, were when the Sinaloa Cartel, under Guadalajara Zambada, and Joaquin Guzman Loera grew to the international syndicate it is now. Cazares was an integral part of that, his shipments, of millions of dollars in cocaine, helped the organization in part to expand, and grow.
It is likely Cazares has cooperated in investigations into Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy, his indictment indicates a sentence of 25 years or more, and the case against him, been formed by the initial indictment, but the dozens of cooperators who emerged from that case, who could implicate Cazares, directly. This includes Charlie Cuevas, who ran the import cell in Mexicali.
His lawyer was Jan Ronis, who has long represented cartel figures in San Diego, including Benjamin Arellano Felix, and many Arellano Felix affiliates and family members. Ronis, was barred from representing Arellano Felix in his 2012 case in San Diego, because the US Attorney's office sought to call him as a potential witness. His son, Jason Ronis represents one of the men arrested in Santa Fe Springs, California with 300 kilos of cocaine.
Hon. William Q Hayes, who also sentenced Mario Escamillia, underboss to Armando 'El Gordo' Villareal, (a CAF cell de Inge that operated in San Diego in 2009) to 35 years in prison for trafficking methemphetamine and ordering gang killing, handed down a sentence of 180 months. He also imposed a $10,000,000 judgement against Cazares, who submitted a cashiers check of 150,000 to the US Attorney's office prior to sentencing, similar to Jose Rodrigo Gamboa Archeiaga, 'El Chino Anatrax'. Cazares, now 53, admitted to importing over 450 kilos of cocaine, the real number is likely closer to 3,000, if not more.
Cazares sister, Blanca Cazares Salazar, known as La Emperatriz, is sanctioned under the OFAC list, and known as an important figure in the organization of Mayo Zambada. She is still free, and known to be a powerful figure in her own right. There is long rumored story linking the killing of Edgar Guzman in 2008, to a feud between her and Vicente Zambada Niebla.
Sources: US Attorney's Office
Background on Emilio Cazares: http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2016/03/sinaloa-victor-emilio-cazares-gastellum.html