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Kingpin Convicted In Colo. And Ariz. Gets 17 Years

By Samantha Abernethy/ Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) – 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.”

Quintero’s son declined to comment.

Brimmer granted defense attorney Walter Nash’s request that Brimmer deduct three years from the sentence for time that Caro Quintero spent in a Mexican prison for a sentence on an unrelated charge, saying a co-defendant received similar consideration.

Brimmer refused to deduct an additional four years spent in a Mexican jail while Caro Quintero fought his extradition.

Rafael Caro Quintero was arrested in Costa Rica in 1985 and extradited to Mexico, where he is serving a 40-year prison term for Camarena’s murder.

Miguel Caro Quintero took up the drug operation after his brother’s capture, authorities said. In 2000, the brothers were identified as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under a federal law known as the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Nash said during court that Caro Quintero has spent nearly eight years total in solitary confinement, seven years in jails in Mexico and about a year in the U.S. Nash asked Brimmer to ensure Quintero is placed with the general inmate population.

Brimmer rejected that request, saying the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ keeping a high profile prisoner in solitary confinement for protection while his case moved through court was understandable, but the judge didn’t think Quintero would serve his sentence in solitary confinement.

As part of the plea deal, Brimmer agreed to dismiss all other federal charges.

“It’s done,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Barrett.

Associated Press Writer P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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