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'El Chapo' conspirator sentenced to 19 years; apologizes for 'mistakes'

By Andrew V. Pestano

CHICAGO, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Tomas Arevalo Renteria, confessed operative of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment.

Arevalo Renteria, 46, apologized in front Wednesday before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, The Chicago Tribune reported.

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"I know that I must pay for my mistakes," Arevalo Renteria said in Spanish, apologizing to the court and the United States for his actions.

Arevalo Renteria pleaded guilty in March 2014 to one count of possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute. He also admitted responsibility to more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and 30 kilograms of heroin distributed in the United States, particularly in Chicago.

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While asking the court to sentence Arevalo Renteria for 25 years, assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara called Arevalo Renteria an "experienced drug trafficker" who had access to the highest levels of the Sinaloa Cartel and arranged for the shipments of cocaine and heroin "as if he was ordering a pizza."

Arevalo Renteria's arrest stemmed partly from the set up of two drug deliveries to the Chicago area, according to a U.S. government sentencing memorandum.

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One of the two drug set ups occurred in November 2008 when Arevalo Renteria was talking on the phone with twin brothers Pedro Flores and Margarito Flores to set up a 12-kilogram cocaine deal in Chicago's west suburb of Cicero.

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The Flores brothers had become one of the largest drug distributors in the city, effectively earning the trust of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel. What Arevalo Renteria did not know was that the brothers had become informants for the U.S. government.

A confessed conspirator of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, pictured, was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Mexico's Attorney General.

El Chapo" -- meaning "The Short One" or "shorty" -- so dubbed because of his 5-foot-6-inch frame, was captured in Guatemala in 1993 and then extradited to Mexico to face murder and drug trafficking charges. He escaped from prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart after bribing prison guards, and was re-captured in February 2014.

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On July 11, Guzman escaped from a Mexican maximum security prison for the second time using a mile-long tunnel, which could have taken a year to build. In October, an unedited leaked video of Guzman's escape shed further light into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the prison break.

Mexican television channel Televisa broadcasted the CCTV footage of Guzman's escape, the longer version of a video authorities previously released but without sound and only showing the moments before Guzman disappeared.

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