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Courier for Mexican drug cartel gets more than 5 years in prison

A cocaine dealer who laundered money in Virginia for one of the most violent drug cartels in Mexico was sentenced Tuesday to more than five years in prison.

Jorge Orozco-Sandoval, 35, admitted that he dropped off nearly $320,000 in three installments at a Target store in Front Royal, expecting the money to be routed to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in Mexico. But he unwittingly handed the cash to an undercover law enforcement officer, according to documents filed with his guilty plea earlier this year.

Federal prosecutors said Orozco-Sandoval was the last of six defendants to plead guilty and be sentenced for running a cocaine-trafficking ring in Virginia. He had been convicted in 2008 of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute in Maryland, went to prison for more than a year, was deported to Mexico and reentered the United States, court records show.

In Virginia, Orozco-Sandoval was “at the top of the distribution chain,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather D. Call wrote in a sentencing brief. Orozco-Sandoval, she wrote, supplied cocaine in large quantities of up to one kilogram at a time.

“While the conspiracy was actively spreading kilograms of cocaine throughout the region, the defendant laundered drug proceeds destined for a violent cartel in Mexico,” Call wrote.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema sentenced Orozco-Sandoval to five years and three months in prison, two months less than what prosecutors requested. “You’re not a kid anymore; you’re 35 years old,” the judge told Orozco-Sandoval.

Defense attorney Robert L. Jenkins Jr. had asked the court to impose a four-year sentence, noting that Orozco-Sandoval’s convictions did not involve firearms offenses.

“I know this was a mistake and I have to pay for it,” Orozco-Sandoval said Tuesday as his family sat in the courtroom.

The Justice Department says the CJNG is “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world, responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico.”

The organization’s founder and leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, or “El Mencho,” is one of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted fugitives. The DEA is offering $10 million for information leading to his capture. His son, Rubén Oseguera González, was extradited to the United States in 2020 to face international drug-trafficking charges, and his trial in federal court in D.C. is scheduled to begin in May.