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Logistics man for Sinaloa cartel gets 19 years in prison

Federal prosecutors say Tomas Arevalo-Renteria was a henchman in the Sinaloa drug cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (shown above after his arrest in 2014). Guzman has since escaped and remains at large. | Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Chicago’s chief federal judge sentenced a henchman in Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel to 19 years in prison Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Tomas Arevalo-Renteria, 46, sent drugs to the United States “as if he was ordering a pizza.” They sought to put him away for 25 years after he admitted to his role in a drug conspiracy that involved “multiple tons” of cocaine and dozens of kilos of heroin. They said Arevalo-Renteria was accountable for 150 kilograms of cocaine and 30 kilograms of heroin.

The feds described Arevalo-Renteria in court records as a “logistical coordinator” for the Sinaloa cartel, responsible for moving the drugs from Mexico to Chicago. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara called the drugs the “absolute scourge of society.”

In late 2008, prosecutors said Arevalo-Renteria became the primary contact for Pedro and Margarito Flores, who agreed to purchase two shipments of heroin from the cartel. The brothers turned out to be government informants and helped the feds seize 15 kilograms of heroin in Chicago in October 2008 and 12 kilograms in Cicero in November 2008, court records show.

Before he was sentenced, Arevalo-Renteria apologized to U.S. Chief Judge Ruben Castillo and the United States.

“I know that I must pay for my mistake,” Arevalo-Renteria said through a translator.

Damon Cheronis, Arevalo-Renteria’s defense attorney, compared the Sinaloa cartel to the Chicago Outfit, arguing his client should be compared more to a low-level mobster than to a high-level organized crime boss.

Arevalo-Renteria’s sentencing hearing followed the daring July escape from a Mexican maximum-security prison by Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel. After his escape, the Chicago Crime Commission again named Guzman Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1.

Castillo said he expects Arevalo-Renteria to be deported once his sentence is complete. The judge also cautioned Wednesday that Arevalo-Renteria’s sentence was not based on the publicity given to the “ultimate head of this beast that is otherwise known as the Sinaloa organization.”

“I am not going to hold that against you in any way,” Castillo said.