A Honduran drug lord convicted by a Miami federal jury was sentenced Monday to life in prison for supplying alleged Mexican kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and other traffickers with huge loads of cocaine that were smuggled into the United States.
Sergio Neftali Mejia-Duarte, 41, used go-fast boats, helicopters and airplanes to ship an estimated 20,000 kilos of cocaine from Colombia through Central America to Mexico and then the United States, U.S. authorities said.
At trial in January, testimony by convicted associates and pictures from a 2,000-kilo drug seizure bolstered the Justice Department's case that Mejia-Duarte was guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine to Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel for distribution in the United States over the past decade.
Mejia-Duarte, aka "El Doctor," was portrayed by federal prosecutors as a violent boss who carried guns, employed bodyguards and deployed assassins in a bloody war with a rival.
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"The life sentence imposed upon Mejia-Duarte ends the reign of a ruthless drug trafficker," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said in a statement.
Mejia-Duarte was given the maximum sentence for his drug conspiracy conviction by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore.
Mejia-Duarte's case, investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, opened a window into the vast international narcotics network operated by Guzman and other Sinaloa cartel bosses.
Last year, Guzman was extradited from Mexico to the United States to face a sweeping indictment that includes numerous drug trafficking charges bundled together from cases in New York, Miami and other U.S. cities.
Guzman was brought to New York, where the 60-year-old awaits trial. U.S. attorneys from New York and Miami highlighted his central role in trafficking tons of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, throughout the United States while amassing billions of dollars in illicit profits.
In exchange for his extradition, the United States has agreed with Mexican officials not to seek the death penalty, though Guzman was charged with various murders in the original New York indictment.
Guzman escaped from prison in 2001 after bribing Mexican prison guards, and again in 2014 when he exited through a nearly 1-mile-long tunnel dug beneath his jail cell. He was captured in 2016.