Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who as the alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel pumped drugs and money through Houston for years until his capture and extradition to the United States in 2007, was in U.S. custody 16 years ago but was released, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.
Recently unearthed records showed Cardenas walked out of an Oklahoma prison after being arrested while he was still a mid-level gangster selling cocaine in a steakhouse parking lot in Brownsville, Texas, the newspaper said.
The Chronicle said a plea deal allowed Cardenas to participate in a prisoner exchange program between the United States and Mexico that allowed Mexican citizens to serve most of their sentences back home.
"What happened here is not only unfortunate, it sends the wrong signal and quickly becomes the stuff of legend and narco corridos," said former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza. "Guy gets busted, beats the system and rises to the top, romanticizes what he's done and every punk out there feels they can do the same."