- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) - A man described by prosecutors as the former leader of Mexico’s Gulf drug cartel pleaded guilty Tuesday in Texas to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez told U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone in Beaumont on Tuesday that he smuggled about 100 tons of marijuana and almost a half-ton of cocaine, generating about $100 million, The Beaumont Enterprise reported (http://bit.ly/1z8DiJV ). He said he took the cash to Mexico and reinvested it into the business to buy drugs and “other things.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Craft says the 23-year-old defendant joined the cartel in 2007 as a lookout. The Drug Enforcement Administration says Saenz-Tamez became the head of the cartel after the 2013 arrest of its former leader.

No sentencing hearing has been set.

The resident of the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison. He was arrested Oct. 9 by U.S. authorities while he shopped in Edinburg, just over the border from Reynosa, Mexico, where the cartel is based.

In comments in Spanish that were translated for the judge, Saenz-Tamez said he was in charge of Camargo, a small Mexican town in Tamaulipas, where he obtained, on average, more than a ton of marijuana and 700 to 900 pounds of cocaine for shipment to Houston. The drugs were then distributed to states as far away as New York, Michigan and Florida.

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Information from: The Beaumont Enterprise, http://beaumontenterprise.com

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