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'El Chapo' associate sentenced to 17 years in U.S. prison

By Andrew V. Pestano

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A member of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced by a federal court in New Hampshire to 17 years in prison.

Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, 40, of Hermosillo, Mexico, was arrested after he tried to conspire with other cartel members to expand the Sinaloa Cartel's influence into the United States and Europe, the Department of Justice said.

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Celaya Valenzuela and three others said the cartel would deliver 2,200 pounds of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin to members of a European criminal ring, who were actually undercover FBI agents. The events were recorded in video and audio, which were shown in trial.

The other men who conspired with Celaya Valenzuela have already been sentenced. Celaya Valenzuela will be deported to Mexico after his release.

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"This case illustrates that drug cartels based in foreign countries will go anywhere to distribute their deadly products," Acting U.S. Attorney Donald Feith said in a statement. "Mr. Celaya Valenzuela served as a representative of one of the world's wealthiest and deadliest drug organizations. Without the work of dedicated agents from the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the Spanish National Police, this long term investigation would not have been successful. I commend these agencies for their determination to bring these individuals to justice."

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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.

A member of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel has been sentenced by a federal court in New Hampshire to 17 years in prison. Photo courtesy Mexico 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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