El Chapo’s Top US Money Launderer Gets Eight Years Behind Bars

REUTERS/Henry Romero/Files

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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One of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s top money men in the U.S. was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Chicago federal judge Friday.

Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega moved millions from Mexico to the U.S. for years on behalf of his boss, Sinaloa Cartel head El Chapo, until he was picked up by authorities in January 2014. Despite managing millions of dollars worth of ill-gotten gains for the Sinaloa Cartel, Ortega, 29, got a relatively short sentence.

The major Mexican cartel operative’s conviction marks the end of a long road for Ortega ever since his arrest. Back in April, the money manager pleaded guilty to money laundering which prosecutors estimate at a minimum to have been $3.5 million.

Ortega’s brother Hector was also indicted at the same time as his brother but managed to be in Mexico, where he was murdered in what has been deemed a cartel killing. In court, Ortega made a point of apologizing to the U.S., the judge presiding over his case, and his family, particularly his mother.

“I know that she has suffered through this in ways that I cannot imagine,” Ortega stated in court as six of his family members cried. The seemingly remorseful cartel manager worked for, “some of the most prolific and dangerous criminals in Mexico and the U.S.,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara.

The 29-year-old had headphones on during the sentencing to get a live translation of the court’s activities from English to Spanish. To his fellow cartel criminals, Ortega is known as “El Zorro,” which is Spanish for, “The Fox.”

Ortega got his start in the Sinaloa Cartel simply by growing up as a family friend of the nephews and sons of Sinaloa Cartel leaders which then led to a job offer as a top U.S.-based operative. Several kilograms of cocaine entered the U.S. and were sold in Los Angeles and Chicago as a result of Ortega’s abilities as a pricing negotiator.

Sinaloa Cartel boss El Chapo is currently in a Mexican prison awaiting extradition to the U.S. It may take years for the drug lord to be sent to the U.S.

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