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South Texas man sentenced to 5 years for 100-kilo marijuana bust in 1998

MCALLEN, Texas - After a local man evaded the law for 10 years, a federal judge sentenced him to five years in prison for conspiring to distribute more than 100 kilograms (220 lbs.) of marijuana. The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas, and resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Jose Luis Cantu, 49, of McAllen, who was a fugitive for 10 years, was sentenced on Wednesday to 60 months in prison, followed by four years of supervised release.

Based on court documents, in August 1998, an indictment was returned in the Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division, charging Cantu and six others with a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. All other defendants were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley and in West Palm Beach, Fla., except Cantu. All of Cantu's co-defendants either pleaded guilty or were found guilty after a jury trial in 1999 and were subsequently sentenced to prison terms ranging from 16 to 70 months.

In March 2009, ICE agents encountered Cantu in Fayette County, Texas. Database checks indicated that Cantu had an arrest warrant based on the 1999 federal drug case. In July, Cantu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. ICE preserved the evidence over the years while Cantu was a fugitive in hopes of bringing the case to a complete conclusion.

Cantu has been held without bond since his arrest, and will serve his 60-month sentence in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry L. Leonard, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.