Two men sentenced to life in Ontario’s largest cocaine bust, linked to Sinaloa cartel

Authorities seized 8,000kg of cocaine – and five Mexican men were sentenced to life in prison

Two men sentenced to life in Ontario’s largest cocaine bust, linked to Sinaloa cartel

A judge sentenced two Mexican men to life in prison on Sunday after a judge found them guilty of trafficking nearly 8,000kg of cocaine into Canada, the largest ever case of its kind.

The massive cocaine seizure in 2015 was linked to the Sinaloa cartel. Court heard evidence that the men were linked to several other deaths in Mexico, including the murder of an anti-corruption judge who was investigating the drug cartel’s leadership.

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At the time of the shipment, the case was the largest seizure of cocaine ever in Canada, and was both rare and embarrassing to the government for its repeated failure to thwart the smuggling of the drug to the country through the Panama Canal.

The men were both put into custody following a four-week trial.

Jesus Humberto Villarreal-Negrete, 35, and Yilma Gamboa, 28, were both convicted of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and were sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Humberto Marroquin-Robles, 27, was convicted of the same crimes as Villarreal-Negrete and was also sentenced to life in prison. All three were also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

The state attorney general’s office told the Guardian: “The government of Ontario takes these sentences very seriously and will continue to prosecute organized crime groups that seek to violate our laws through greed and deceit.”

In the trial, Judge Jillian Martin described how the two men and two other men ordered and executed the killings of a judge, a priest and several other individuals in the cartel’s Mexican headquarters.

According to court documents, Villarreal-Negrete and Gamboa travelled from Mexico to meet Juan Verdugo-Avila, who they believed to be a judge, in a hotel in Panama.

A police report submitted in court said Verdugo-Avila’s 11-year-old son, who was in the hotel room at the time, was later shot by a stray bullet while he and another child were watching TV. Verdugo-Avila was never the judge the men killed, and he later went on the run. He is still at large.

Authorities, including several teams of undercover officers working on the case, interviewed people who were either in contact with Villarreal-Negrete and Gamboa in Mexico, or who had seen or been in contact with the men over the last two years.

The two men were arrested in Ontario in September 2015, months after the huge cocaine bust, and only returned to Mexico on Friday.

Before sentencing, the judge described the life sentence imposed on each defendant as something “worthwhile, very meaningful, and more than that, an accurate reflection of the potential harm that each has caused by having a desire to get rich and to get even”.

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