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MEXICAN DRUG CARTEL LEADER SCORES A VERDICT OF GUILTY

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Mexican drug kingpin Juan Garcia Abrego was convicted Wednesday of charges he masterminded the transportation of tons of cocaine into the United States and laundered millions of dollars in drug profits.

Garcia Abrego looked stern as the verdict was announced, and one of his hands seemed to twitch. He faces up to life in prison.The verdict against the 52-year-old drug cartel leader came after nearly 12 hours of deliberations that began Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Garcia Abrego went on trial Sept. 16 on 22 counts of trafficking nearly 15 tons of cocaine and the illegal laundering of some $10.5 million.

Garcia Abrego was once on the FBI's "Most Wanted List," and prosecutors charged that he was making $2 billion a year before his capture in January.

He reportedly doled out millions of dollars in bribes to high-ranking Mexican officials to have them look the other way. Among Garcia Abrego's alleged associates was Raul Salinas, the elder brother of former Mexico President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

However, the only testimony at the trial about corruption involved low-level Mexican police officials.

After his arrest in Mexico, Garcia Abrego was flown to Houston, where he waived his right to have an attorney present and incriminated himself in an interview with U.S. drug enforcement agents.

Authorities believe Garcia Abrego is largely responsible for transforming Mexico's drug trade from a backwoods marijuana operation into a huge cocaine shipping business.

His defense attorneys, who included Tony Canales, a former U.S. attorney, had referred to some of the government's 50 witnesses as "star rats" who spoke from scripted testimony in return for reduced sentences on their own convictions.

Prosecutors countered they had proved their case but didn't disagree with the assessment of their witnesses as "rats."

"I like the word `rats,' " Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Rodriguez said during closing arguments. "Who else can lead you to the big cheese?"