Accused Cartel Lieutenant Gets 30 Years

The Associated Press
Monday, December 17, 2007; 8:32 PM

SAN DIEGO -- A Mexican drug trafficker accused of being a top lieutenant in a deadly cartel was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Gilberto Higuera Guerrero, 39, pleaded guilty in April to racketeering charges.

"Everything worked out all right," his lawyer, Stephen White, said. He had no further comment.

Higuera Guerrero was taken to San Diego in January to face federal charges after the Mexican government took the unusual step of extraditing 15 people already serving time in that country.

His brother, Ismael Higuera Guerrero, 46, was among those extradited. He was sentenced this month to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to racketeering charges.

Prosecutors say the brothers were senior figures in the Arellano Felix organization, based in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego.

Ismael Higuera Guerrero admitted to coordinating the transfer of multi-ton shipments of cocaine and marijuana from Colombia north to the U.S. via Tijuana and the border town of Mexicali, 120 miles east of San Diego, authorities said. His younger brother took delivery of the shipments in Mexico, they said.

Both men also admitted to enforcing the cartel's dominance over the drug business in Tijuana and Mexicali through kidnapping and murder. Ismael Higuera Guerrero also admitted to bribing government officials.

The brothers had faced an array of drug trafficking and money laundering charges stemming from a sweeping 2003 indictment that named 11 people, including accused cartel kingpin Francisco Javier Arellano Felix.

In September, Arellano Felix pleaded guilty to conspiring to run the cartel and laundering millions of dollars. He was sentenced to life in prison in November.

© 2007 The Associated Press