HOUSTON - A 34-year-old Mexican man has been
ordered to federal prison sentence following his conviction of conspiracy to
import large amounts of cocaine and marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K.
Luis Ivan Nino-Duenez, El Control, Tamaulipas,
Mexico, pleaded guilty June 3, 2014.
Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Hilda G.
Tagle sentenced Nino-Duenes to a total of 20 years in federal prison.
During the hearing, the court heard evidence
to support possible increases in the calculated sentencing guideline range.
Nino-Duenes utilized automatic weapons, grenades, homemade cannons and body
armor to provided security during the purchase, transportation and distribution
of narcotics. He also commanded, directed and engaged in violent confrontations
with other criminal syndicates to maintain control of the plazas in Mexico. He
further received enhancements for importation of meth into the United States,
maintaining premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a
controlled substance and because he committed the offense as part of a pattern
of criminal conduct. Finally, the court also found Nino-Duenes was a
leader/organizer of an extensive criminal enterprise involving five or more
Nino-Duenes served as a comandante for Jose
Luiz Zuniga-Hernandez aka Wicho or XW who served as a gulf cartel plaza boss in
El Control for a large period of time between 2008 through 2011.
On Nov. 6, 2010, Zuniga-Hernandez assumed
control of the Matamoros Plaza upon the death of Antonio Ezequiel
Cardenas-Guillen. On March 28, 2011, Rafael Cardenas-Vela came to Matamoros to
take over the plaza management duties and Zuniga-Hernandez returned to El
Cartel Del Golfo (CDG) transnational criminal
organization plaza bosses are appointed to specific regions to help coordinate
the importation and distribution of multi-ton shipments of cocaine, marijuana
and other illicit narcotics within Mexico and into the United States. They are
the lead representatives for the CDG in a particular region or town,
responsible for maintaining control of the region and ensuring the safe passage
of narcotics. The plaza boss also extracts a "piso," or payment, from
others who want to transport narcotics for importation into the United States
or operate businesses in that region.
Additional evidence presented today indicated
Zuniga-Hernandez and the CDG smuggled more than one ton of cocaine through the
Matamoros/El Control plaza areas and more than 3000 kilograms of marijuana into
the United States per month. The CDG used planes and clandestine air strips to
fly the cocaine into Mexico for later importation and distribution within the
Zuniga-Hernandez had under his command
approximately 120 lookouts and 60 estacas. An estaca is a vehicle occupied by
three or four armed individuals. Thus, 60 estacas would be anywhere from 180 to
240 armed individuals patrolling the plaza. Nino-Dunez was the commander of
On Oct. 27, 2011, Zuniga-Hernandez and
Nino-Duenes along with Hernandez and Rincon-Rincon fled into the United States
after a gun battle in Mexico involving a power struggle between the CDG plazas.
All were found hiding near the Rio Grande
River. Upon their arrest, agents found a gold, diamond and ruby encrusted gun,
more than $39,000 and several cell phones. Evidence on those phones showed
discussions with "Apa" about the gun battle and what to do in
response. "Apa" was identified as Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez, the
head of the CDG.
Zuniga-Hernandez, Hernandez and Rincon-Rincon
were previously sentenced to 50 years, 35 years and life imprisonment,
Nino-Duenes will remain in custody pending
transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s
Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration and Cameron
County Sheriff’s Office conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task
Force investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angel Castro and Jody Young are
prosecuting the case.