Former Head of Gulf Cartel Receives Life Sentence for Importing Kilos of Drugs
Seven tons of cocaine seized during the investigation
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 51-year-old Mexican national who was head of Cartel del Golfo (CDG) from 2003 to 2012 has been ordered to serve life in prison and to pay millions for his role in conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the United States, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge, Houston Division Daniel C. Comeaux and U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Jorge Costilla-Sanchez pleaded guilty Sept. 26, 2017.
Costilla-Sanchez acknowledged his participation in a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute over 450 kilograms of cocaine and over 90,000 kilograms of marijuana. In addition, Judge Rodriguez ordered Costilla to pay a forfeiture money judgement of $5 million.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Rodriguez noted Costilla-Sanchez’s extensive involvement in trafficking illegal drugs into the country. The court commented that during the 10 years Costilla-Sanchez was the head of the CDG, he lead a violent criminal organization, using guns and intimidation to maintain control of their illegal drug trafficking enterprise and resorting to violence and killing to maintain power.
“High-ranking drug trafficking leaders like Costilla-Sanchez are not immune from facing stiff punishments,” said Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Houston Division. “Costilla-Sanchez brought poison to our communities, and our collaborative efforts with our local and federal partners brought him to prison. We will continue to aggressively go after any drug trafficking organization wanting to profit from our communities.”
Costilla-Sanchez aka El Cos, Doble X and Dos Equis became head of CDG after the arrest of former CDG leader Osiel Cardenas in 2003. Prior to joining the cartel, Costilla-Sanchez was a municipal police officer in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
During his association with the Gulf Cartel, Costilla-Sanchez was responsible for making strategic decisions, managing various drug trafficking plazas, or geographic areas of responsibility, and providing leadership that resulted in the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. Under the Costilla-Sanchez’s leadership, the Gulf Cartel controlled numerous plazas along the United States and Mexico border including Matamoros, Rio Bravo, Reynosa, Miguel Aleman, and Nuevo Laredo. Costilla-Sanchez used these strategic locations to distribute cocaine and marijuana into the United States and to return bulk drug proceeds in the form of U.S. currency to himself and other members of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico. Costilla-Sanchez lead the cartel until his arrest in September 2012.
During the course of the investigation, DEA Houston, Mexico and Panama law enforcement seized ton quantities of cocaine that were intended for Costilla-Sanchez and other members of the Gulf Cartel to distribute in Mexico and the United States. Specifically, on October 5, 2007, Mexican law enforcement seized 11,700 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in Tampico, Mexico, and on November 30, 2007, the Panamanian National Police seized approximately 2,400 kilograms of cocaine in Colon, Panama.
He was arrested in 2012 in Mexico at the request of the United States and in 2015 was extradited to the United States to answer for the two indictments levied against him. Costilla-Sanchez pleaded guilty to threatening two federal agents including DEA and FBI while he was being investigated for drug trafficking in 1999. Costilla-Sanchez also pleaded guilty to the international drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana into the United States.
The DEA Houston investigation generated:
- 27 months of federal wiretaps
- 160 authorizations
- over 258,000 intercepted communications
- over $11,000,000 in bulk US currency was seized in the United States
- 47,755 pounds of domestically seized marijuana,
- 337 kilograms of domestically seized cocaine
- 14,200 kilograms of cocaine seized in Mexico and Panama
- the indictment of 20 leaders of the Cartel, to include eight CPOTS on 959 charges with NDDS in Washington, DC.
The lead investigators for the DEA Houston case were Special Agents David Todd, Anthony Lewis, and Eric Putnam, along with Group Supervisor Keith Bishop (retired).
Costilla-Sanchez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
DEA,HSI and FBI conducted the OCDETF operation with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
“Today’s sentencing is the culmination of years of relentless work by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partners targeting the Cartel del Golfo,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of HSI - San Antonio. “This investigation highlights HSI’s dedication to go after cartel members importing dangerous drugs into our communities. This sentence will send a resounding message that transnational criminal organizations are being continuously investigated and their leaders will be brought to justice.”
“This sentencing sends a clear message that organized drug trafficking organizations and threats against law enforcement will not be tolerated,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. “The FBI continues to work alongside our partners to pursue and prosecute the leadership of drug trafficking cartels and dismantle their organizations. We thank the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for their collective efforts to bring this high-level criminal to justice.”
OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.
Trial Attorney Kirk Handrich with Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section in Washington D.C. along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young and Karen Betancourt prosecuted the two indictments. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Criminal Division's Office of Enforcement Operations worked with law enforcement partners in Mexico to secure the arrest and extradition of Costilla-Sanchez to the United States.