A top henchman in Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel was sentenced Monday to 22 years in Chicago’s federal court.
Alfredo Vazquez-Hernandez was a lifelong pal of Guzman and served as a logistics chief of the world’s largest drug-trafficking organization, prosecutors say.
Vazquez-Hernandez, 59, pleaded guilty in April to shipping cocaine into Chicago by train, but denied playing a major role in the cartel, claiming a pair of Chicago twins who cooperated with the government overstated the case against him to win a sweeter deal for themselves.
But the feds said that they have him on tape discussing the importation of cocaine into Mexico from Colombia via submarine, as well as the shipments via train of hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Chicago.
Vazquez-Hernandez apologized to the court and the federal government.
“I ask you for forgiveness and for you to have pity on me,” he told U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo.
But Castillo said he didn’t buy Vazquez-Hernandez’s defense that he simply worked as an auto painter in Los Angeles and that this was his only drug deal.
On behalf of the citizens of Chicago, Castillo said, “we are tired, tired of drug trafficking.”
The judge said the maximum sentence was 25 years, but he gave Vazquez-Hernandez 22 months’ credit for time he served in jail in Mexico. He did not fine Vazquez-Hernandez but said, “if I were betting person” he would presume that the defendant had some money hidden away.
The defendant’s son, Gabriel Vazquez, called the sentence cruel.
“My father is not the monster everyone says he is,” Vazquez said. “He worked, worked, worked all of his life.”
Pedro and Margarito Flores — the twins who helped prosecutors make the case against Vazquez-Hernandez and other high-ranking Sinaloa cartel members — have been promised sentences of 16 years or less in return for their cooperation.
The brothers helped smuggle nearly a billion dollars of dope through Chicago, but the government allowed them to keep $300,000 as part of their plea deals.
The case — which saw “El Chapo” indicted in 2009 alongside 13 co-defendants, including Vazquez-Hernandez — has been described as the largest drug case ever brought in Chicago.
Vazquez-Hernandez, also known as “Alfredo Compadre,” coordinated the use of 747s, trains and submarines to ship cocaine and heroin from Mexico to the United States, authorities said.
Vazquez-Hernandez’s sentence was based on his trafficking 276 kilos of narcotics.
Sinaloa cartel members supply the majority of drugs sold on the city’s streets, causing “El Chapo” to be dubbed Chicago’s “Public Enemy No. 1” last year.
He was arrested in Mexico in February. Though it remains unclear if he will ever be extradited to the United States, or if he will stand trial in Chicago if extradited, four alleged Sinaloa cartel members charged alongside him in Chicago are known to be in U.S. custody.
In their biggest coup, federal prosecutors revealed earlier this year that a high-ranking member of the cartel, Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, has pleaded guilty and has been cooperating since last year.