'El Chapo' money launderer sentenced to 8 years in U.S. prison

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Sept. 26, 2016 at 12:53 PM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega, who pleaded guilty to money laundering for drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, has been sentenced to eight years in a U.S. prison.

Federal prosecutors said Ortega, 29, laundered up to $3.5 million in the United States and moved it to Mexico for Guzman's criminal enterprise over two years. U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo sentenced Ortega on Friday.

Prosecutors were seeking an 11-year sentence on a charge of money laundering conspiracy to which he pleaded guilty in April. Ortega, born in Guadalajara, was arrested in January 2014 while he was vacationing in Las Vegas.

Lisa Wood, Ortega's defense attorney, said her client admitted to his crimes shortly after being caught and asked Castillo for a lighter sentence.

"Mr. Valencia Ortega and his siblings grew up with the children of high-level Sinaloa cartel members," Wood wrote to Castillo in a memo. "This social circle provided Mr. Valencia Ortega access to individuals engaged in large scale criminal activity relatively quickly -- much more quickly, at least, than someone without such a network. It also provided him with credibility that outsiders did not have."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara on Friday told Castillo that Ortega worked on behalf of "some of the most prolific and dangerous criminals in Mexico and the U.S.," people responsible for bringing "poison and pain" to communities, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel is credited with dominating the illegal drug market in most of the United States, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a recent report.

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