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December 18, 2015New York, NY, United StatesNarcotics

Cartel leader extradited from Mexico to face international cocaine trafficking charges

NEW YORK — The leader of a Mexican cartel that imported tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States was extradited Thursday to face drug trafficking charges. The extradition and charges resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Mexican authorities arrested Tirso Martinez-Sanchez, 51, of Mexico, on Feb. 2, 2014, based on a federal arrest warrant.

“This is yet another example of HSI and its partners relentlessly pursuing and dismantling drug trafficking organizations from top to bottom,” said Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge HSI New York. “This team of agents and prosecutors are committed to stopping the flow of prohibited drugs into the United States, and accomplishing one of HSI's priorities to ensure public safety.”

“The charges announced today reflect our ongoing efforts to target and dismantle the largest drug trafficking organizations in the world, whose multi-billion dollar criminal networks funnel drugs onto our streets and spread violence into our communities,” said Robert L. Capers, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners in Mexico to root out the leaders of these insidious cartels wherever they may be found and bring them to justice.”

As alleged in the indictment and other court documents, Martinez-Sanchez was the leader of an extensive transnational narcotics importation, distribution, and transportation organization that is responsible for the importation and distribution of tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine.

In particular, the organization obtained multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombian sources of supply. Martinez-Sanchez then organized the importation of that cocaine from outside of the United States, into the United States, by using an elaborate transportation network of trains, tractor trailers, and other vehicles.

Once the cocaine was in the United States, Martinez-Sanchez directed organization members to transport the cocaine overland to large distribution centers, including some areas located in the Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago metropolitan areas. Martinez-Sanchez directed organization members to coordinate the logistics of storing the cocaine in the organization’s stash warehouses and transporting the cocaine to the organization’s distributors and customers throughout New York and elsewhere in the United States, including California and Illinois.

The investigation further revealed that Martinez-Sanchez used a network of large warehouses to store and distribute the cocaine in the United States. Martinez-Sanchez directed members of the organization to establish and maintain numerous front companies to purchase or lease these stash warehouses and vehicles to transport cocaine, and to purchase “cover loads,” or legitimate goods that were stored and transported with the cocaine to mask the cocaine shipment.

Martinez-Sanchez also oversaw the collection of the organization’s proceeds from the sale of cocaine in the United States. After the cocaine was sold, the proceeds were collected and stored in the organization’s stash warehouses. At Martinez-Sanchez’s direction, the organization’s couriers smuggled some of the drug proceeds to organization members outside of the United States using the same transportation network of tractor trailers and trains that had been used to smuggle the cocaine into the United States. The investigation further revealed that Martinez-Sanchez invested a considerable amount of narcotics proceeds in money laundering ventures, such as the purchase of professional soccer teams, and a chain of high-end clothing boutiques. Martinez-Sanchez also invested the narcotics proceeds back into the instrumentalities of the organization itself, such as purchasing or leasing stash warehouses, vehicles, and front businesses.

Martinez-Sanchez had been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target or CPOT by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). In addition to coordinating the distribution of his own organization’s cocaine, Martinez-Sanchez also transported and distributed narcotics for members of other Mexican Drug Cartels, including the Sinaloa Cartel, led by CPOTs Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “Mayo” Zambada; the Juarez Cartel, led by CPOT Vicente Carillo-Fuentes and the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, led by brothers Arturo, Hector and Alfredo Beltran-Leyva.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents seized approximately 500 kilograms of cocaine from a residence in Deer Park, New York; approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York; approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a railroad car in Queens, New York; approximately 1,100 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in El Paso, Texas; and approximately 1,900 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in Chicago, Illinois.