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Extradited Mexican man with ties to Zetas drug cartel sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for cocaine trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Mexican man, who was extradited to the United States late last year, was sentenced Thursday to nearly 20 years in prison for cocaine trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in Corpus Christi, which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The following agencies also assisted with the investigation: the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, Corpus Christi Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance with the extradition.

Benito Aguilar-Ozuna, aka "Pichollo," was sentenced April 25 by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack to 235 months in prison. As a Mexican citizen and convicted felon, he will be deported after he completes his prison sentence. Aguilar-Ozuna pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking Jan. 25.

"Aguilar-Ozuna and his organization exploited our international border to traffic their poison into and throughout the United States," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "Ultimately this border didn't help him avoid justice. At the conclusion of Aguilar-Ozuna's sentence 20 years from now, we'll make sure he gets to see the U.S. border one last time – when he's deported."

Benito Aguilar-Ozuna was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine in an indictment returned Nov. 25, 2008, which was superseded in April 2009 and again in January 2010. Aguilar-Ozuna was charged along with three others, including Carlos Alberto Oliva-Castillo aka "La Rana," a Mexican citizen arrested in October 2011 in Mexico. According to records, Oliva-Castillo was known as the number-three figure in the Zetas drug cartel at the time of his arrest. He allegedly controlled Zetas operations in the key northern states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon.

This investigation began in 2006 when law enforcement authorities discovered a narcotics importer/distributor based in Robstown, Texas, where Oliva-Castillo was the source of supply. Aguilar-Ozuna was Oliva-Castillo's most trusted associate in this large-scale cocaine trafficking organization based in Diaz Ordaz, Mexico. This organization imported cocaine from Mexico and distributed it to the organization's cells located in Texas, Florida, California, Oregon, Georgia and Illinois.

Agents also discovered that Oliva-Castillo and Aguilar-Ozuna oversaw the transportation of narcotics proceeds in the hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. to Mexico. During the course of this investigation, law enforcement seized about 174 kilograms (384 pounds) of cocaine from members of this organization. The case against Oliva-Castillo remains pending. He is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.