High-ranking Gulf Cartel member pleads guilty in 2012 drug trafficking case

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Cleofas Alberto Martinez-Gutierrez

Federal prosecutors had to wait more than a decade, but a high-ranking Gulf Cartel member accused of smuggling nearly seven tons of marijuana has pleaded guilty.

Cleofas Alberto Martinez-Gutierrez, also known as “El Guero,” pleaded guilty on Thursday to knowingly and intentionally possessing with the intent to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from Aug. 2009 to Feb. 6, 2012.

Authorities arrested Martinez on Oct. 20, 2022 after the U.S. extradited him from Mexico. He had previously been arrested in Mexico City in 2016 by authorities there.

Martinez had been facing a 10-indictment from 2012 that charged him with money laundering and smuggling approximately 13,624 pounds of marijuana between 2009 and 2012.

He is one of 22 suspects indicted in the case and all of his co-defendants, with the exception of three, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

One suspect was acquitted and two others are not in custody.

Martinez worked with a man named Daniel Nunez who was the leader of a drug trafficking organization in the U.S. He is serving life in prison.

A news release from 2014 that announced that sentence said Nunez’s organization would cross marijuana through the Rio Grande in the Military Highway area before transporting it to stash locations in Edinburg and Hargill.

The marijuana would then be taken to another location where it was loaded on tractor-trailers for further distribution in the Dallas area, as well as in Panama City, Florida, Orlando, Florida and Steel, Alabama, according to the release.

The cash would then be smuggled back into Mexico through Hidalgo County.

Martinez had been facing a charge of money laundering conspiracy and a count alleging he transported $365,650 into Mexico.

He reached a plea deal with prosecutors who will move to dismiss the remaining counts against him at his sentencing, which is scheduled for June 11.

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