Crime & Justice

Mexico’s former top cop convicted of US drug-trafficking charges

New York, Feb 21 (EFE).- Mexico’s former public security secretary was found guilty Tuesday of drug trafficking in a United States federal court and could be sentenced to life in prison.

After three days of deliberations, the 12 jury members found Genaro Garcia Luna guilty of all five counts he faced, including one of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

Prosecutors managed to convince the jury that the most influential member of former President Felipe Calderon’s Cabinet and the face of that 2006-2012 administration’s war on drugs had been leading a double life.

They were persuaded by the testimony of witnesses including Sergio Villarreal Baragan, alias “El Grande,” a former Federal Police officer who became the right arm of a drug lord, who said that at least as far back as 2001 Garcia Luna was on the payroll of the Sinaloa cartel and received $1.5 million a month.

Witnesses said that quantity grew larger as the Sinaloa mob – which was then led by notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was sentenced to life in prison in the US in 2019 – grew increasingly powerful.

During the trial, cooperating witnesses who included mostly convicted former cartel members testified to either paying Garcia Luna personally or being direct witnesses to the payment of bribes to that former senior official.

The witnesses testified that from his perch in high government positions Garcia Luna delivered information to the Sinaloa cartel, appointed officials it approved of, helped that gang fight rival outfits and paved the way for drug shipments that had arrived from Colombia and other Latin American countries and were bound for the US and Europe to move securely within Mexican territory.

Besides the criminal enterprise count, the 54-year-old defendant also was convicted of participating in an international cocaine distribution conspiracy, a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and a conspiracy to import cocaine.

In addition, Garcia Luna was convicted of falsely stating to the United States Customs and Immigration Services that he had never committed, assisted in committing and attempted to commit a crime or offense for which he had not been arrested.

Garcia Luna’s attorney, Cesar de Castro, said the defense would appeal and that he was “extremely disappointed” in the verdict.

“The government was forced to settle for a case built on the backs of some of the most notorious and ruthless criminals to have testified in this courthouse,” he added.

Judge Brian Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn has scheduled the defendant’s sentencing hearing for June 27.

Garcia Luna was a senior Mexican security official for more than a decade, heading up the Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2006 and then serving under Calderon as public security secretary, Mexico’s top law enforcement position, between 2006 and 2012.

After being arrested in December 2019 in Dallas, he was jailed until the start of his trial on Jan. 17. EFE


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