United States Flag
Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security

Report Crimes: Email or Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE


Former head of the Gulf Cartel sentenced to 25 years in prison

Defendant ordered to forfeit $50 million in illicit proceeds to the United States

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - The former head of the notorious Gulf Cartel, a major drug trafficking organization, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in federal prison without parole and ordered to forfeit $50 million in proceeds from his illegal enterprise to the United States.

Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, 42, of Matamoros, Mexico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle, who also fined him $100,000 and ordered him to serve five years of supervised release following his time in prison.

The significant sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno. The sentence is a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

"The successful prosecution of Cardenas-Guillen underscores the joint resolve of the United States and Mexico to pursue and prosecute the leadership of the drug trafficking cartels, dismantle their organizations and end the violence and corruption they have spawned," said Moreno.

At the sentencing, the court accepted Cardenas-Guillen's prior guilty pleas to a total of five felony offenses, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and threatening to assault and murder federal agents. The court sentenced Cardenas-Guillen for each offense and ordered the sentences to be served concurrently.

Cardenas-Guillen was indicted in 2000. In January 2007, he was one of 15 major drug defendants extradited to the United States from Mexico for prosecution.

While head of the Gulf Cartel, Cardenas-Guillen oversaw a vast drug trafficking empire responsible for bringing thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. The smuggled drugs were further distributed to other areas of the country, including Houston and Atlanta.

From July 2000 through September 2001, more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine directly attributable to Cardenas-Guillen were seized by U.S. law enforcement. The cartel's activities generated millions of dollars in drug proceeds, which flowed into South Texas and ultimately back to Mexico. Drug ledgers seized in Atlanta in June 2001 indicated the Cartel generated more than $41 million in drug proceeds over a three and a half month period in the Atlanta area alone.

Cardenas-Guillen used violence and intimidation to further the goals of his criminal enterprise. In May 1999, he threatened to kill a Cameron County sheriff's deputy who was working in an undercover capacity with ICE after the undercover agent refused to deliver a load of approximately 988 kilograms of marijuana. Later, in November 1999, while traveling in an official vehicle through Matamoros, Mexico, a DEA and FBI agent were surrounded by Cardenas-Guillen and his gang and threatened at gunpoint. Although eventually allowed to leave, the agents were warned by Cardenas-Guillen not to return.

Cardenas-Guillen has been in federal custody without bond since his extradition from Mexico.