Lead Assassin for Mexican Cartel Sentenced to Life

City, Featured

Image of a gavel by Quince Media / Wikimedia

Mario Iglesias-Villegas, a 37-year-old from Villa Ahumada in Chihuahua, Mexico, was sentenced to life in prison for being a lead assassin in the Sinaloa Cartel. He was involved in killing thousands of people from 2008 to 2011 in Ciudad Juarez.

On March 24, the court sentenced Iglesias to life in prison and fined him $100,000 for his involvement with the cartel.

According to a press release from the United States Department of Justice, a federal jury in El Paso found Iglesias guilty on October 22, 2021.

He was convicted of one count of kidnapping, one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization statute, one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana and cocaine, one count of conspiracy to import marijuana and cocaine, one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in drug trafficking crimes, one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and five counts of violent crimes aiding in racketeering activities.

During the investigation, authorities seized thousands of pounds of marijuana and hundreds of kilograms of cocaine throughout the U.S. that they said came from the Sinaloa Cartel.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Sinaloa Cartel “exports and distributes wholesale amounts of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana in the United States by maintaining distribution hubs in various cities.”

Millions of dollars from drug proceeds destined for the cartel were also reportedly found by authorities, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of weapons allegedly intended to be smuggled into Mexico to aid in the continued drug war in Juarez.

Iglesias, who also goes by “Grim Reaper,” “Parka,” “Delta,” “El 2,” or “Dos,” led a group of “sicarios” (assassins) within the Sinaloa Cartel. His violent work enabled the cartel to gain control of the Juarez drug corridor, and his operations successfully imported marijuana and cocaine into the U.S.

U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff said, “Today, justice was finally served upon Mario Iglesias-Villegas. For decades, the Sinaloa Cartel has been responsible for unspeakable violence on both sides of the border and for importing massive amounts of illegal drugs into our communities in the United States. With the cooperation with our valued law enforcement partners, this office will continue to be vigilant and aggressive in our prosecution efforts as we work together to dismantle dangerous criminal organizations.”

According to Daily Mail, the Sinaloa Cartel was established in 1989 with co-founder Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán-Loera. It is a well-established cartel that occupies fifteen of the thirty-two Mexican states. The cartel also has a presence in South America, Europe, Asia, and the U.S., including Washington D.C. and twenty-four other states.

The Sinaloa Cartel operates primarily in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. The criminal organization has a history of a massive drug war with the Juarez Cartel that has resulted in thousands of deaths in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and Durango. Due to this significant rise in violence, Ciudad Juarez was dubbed the “deadliest city in the world.”

Sinaloa is among the top two narcotics distributors in the United States. The other is its rival, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

According to the DEA, both top cartels have expanded “their criminal influence by engaging in business alliances with other organizations, including independent DTOs (drug trafficking organizations), and working in conjunction with transnational gangs, U.S.-based street gangs, prison gangs, and Asian money laundering organizations.”

Iglesias became a member of the Sinaloa Cartel in 2008. In October of 2021, he was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Another member of the cartel, Arturo Shows Urquidi, also known as “Chous,” was convicted on the same day, and on March 3, he received a life sentence as well. Shows, 51 years old, was a former Chihuahua state police officer.

FBI Special Agent in Charge in the El Paso Field Office Jeffrey R. Downey said, “The sentencing of Mario Iglesias-Villegas is one more step towards ending violence perpetrated by criminal drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel. The FBI and our partners will endlessly pursue and prosecute cartel members and associates who attempt to control and intimidate their communities through violence. This sentencing is justice to all of those who have suffered as a result of Iglesias-Villegas’ criminal actions as a member of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Iglesias’ case was handled by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, an operation of multiple agencies that share intelligence.

Investigators from the Texas Department of Public Safety, El Paso Sheriff’s Office, El Paso Police Department, United States Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, DEA, FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collaborated on the case.

The prosecutors were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Antonio Franco, Kyle Myers, Kristal Wade, and Michael Williams.

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