Mexico Drug Kingpin Pleads Guilty in US Court

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A leader of Mexico’s Beltrán Leyva Organization has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in US Federal Court, marking yet another drug kingpin who has chosen to forego trial in exchange for a possible plea deal. 

Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, alias “El Mochomo,” pleaded guilty in US Federal Court on February 23 to charges of participating in an international drug trafficking conspiracy. Beltrán Leyva was indicted by US authorities in August 2012 and was extradited from Mexico to the United States in November of 2014. 

Alfredo is a former leader of the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), a Mexican drug trafficking group responsible for smuggling multi-ton shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States. The BLO worked alongside Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel for years, but the two groups split following suspicion that El Chapo provided information to authorities that led to Beltrán Leyva’s arrest in 2008. 

Beltrán Leyva is expected be sentenced in June 2016. He faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors have reportedly asked for a life sentence. 

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division Joseph Campbell, and the head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration Chuck Rosenberg were all present to announce the guilty plea. US authorities explicitly thanked their Mexican counterparts for their assistance with the case. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

Beltrán Leyva’s guilty plea should not come as a surprise, despite previous reports that he was maintaining his innocence and unlikely to plead guilty. More than 97 percent of all federal drug cases do not go to trial, with defendants instead opting for plea agreements. 

Although there is no known plea bargain on the table for Beltrán Leyva, the drug kingpin is probably positioning himself to negotiate with prosecutors in exchange for future cooperation. Based on previous kingpin cases, any such negotiations would likely focus on a reduced sentence, securing safe passage for family members to come to the United States, and ensuring the protection of semi-legal assets. A future reduction in prison time could also be negotiated under what is known as “Rule 35,” in which prosecutors can ask the judge for a revised sentence one year after sentencing, usually in exchange for substantial cooperation and assistance. 

Beltrán Leyva’s case may also be a preview of how events unfold for his ally-turned-enemy El Chapo, who is awaiting extradition to the United States following his recapture in January

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