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US fines Mexican police chief $10 billion for drugs

A US Border Patrol Agent inspects a load of marijuana seized from drug smugglers near the US-Mexico border on April 10, 2013 in Hidalgo, Texas
A US Border Patrol Agent inspects a load of marijuana seized from drug smugglers near the US-Mexico border on April 10, 2013 in Hidalgo, Texas

The US imprisoned a former Mexican state police chief for almost 13 years and fined him $10 billion Thursday for trafficking marijuana into the United States for the notorious Gulf Cartel.

The Department of Justice said Gilberto Lerma Plata, 50, was a former commander of the Mexican State Police in Tamaulipas state and at the same time was on the payroll of the Gulf Cartel based in Matamoros, on the border with Texas.

He was arrested on the US side of the border in April 2012 and on March 1 this year pleaded guilty at a federal court in Washington to conspiracy charges to import "multi-ton quantities of marijuana" into the United States.

"Intercepted conversations revealed that Lerma Plata and high ranking members of the Gulf Cartel discussed the shipment of large quantities of marijuana for distribution in the United States as well as the transportation from the United States of proceeds from the sales of the drugs," the Justice Department said in a statement.

"These intercepted conversations also revealed that Lerma Plata obtained AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, as well as pistols, for members of the cartel."

He was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $10 billion, which the court said represents the gross receipts of the Gulf Cartel from selling 1.4 million kilograms (3.1 million pounds) of cocaine and 8,000 tons of marijuana into the United States from 2006 to 2011.

"As a police officer, the defendant should have fought narco-traffickers; but, instead, he helped those traffickers transport massive quantities of dangerous drugs into the US," said acting assistant attorney general Mythili Raman in a statement.

"Today, this former crime fighter will start serving his prison sentence alongside the cartel members he assisted and will be required to forfeit 10 billion dollars in ill-gotten gains -- a fitting end to his criminal career."

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