Tuesday, September 25, 2012



Note: "and the local press"

Former cartel boss: Bribes were set up in days
September 25, 2012 12:11 PM

BROWNSVILLE (AP) — Motivated by an internal rivalry and the hope of
avoiding a life sentence, the nephew of a former Mexican Gulf cartel
kingpin testified Tuesday that he has been cooperating with U.S.
authorities since his arrest in October.

Rafael Cardenas Vela, nephew of former Gulf cartel boss Osiel
Cardenas Guillen, made it clear to jurors that he hopes his
cooperation, which includes weekly interviews over a period of
months, will translate to less time in prison. He also said he has no
qualms about testifying against Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon, a cartel
colleague who stood on the opposite side of an internal rift and is
charged with conspiring to possess and import cocaine and marijuana.

Cardenas Vela pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess
and distribute cocaine and marijuana in exchange for the government
dropping money laundering and immigration charges in March. He is
awaiting sentencing that could bring him 10 years to life.

During three days of testimony, Cardenas Vela has laid out a decade
of cartel hierarchy and transition.

Cardenas Vela pegged Rincon-Rincon as a former bodyguard and plaza
boss loyal to Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, also known as "el
Coss," who took over the cartel after Guillen was captured. Although
Cardenas Vela continued to rise under Costilla — moving from near the
U.S. border to Rio Bravo, a lucrative territory on the Rio Grande —
he felt Costilla played favorites and was unsupportive.

Cardenas Vela believed Costilla was setting him up for a fall in
early 2011 when he took over the cartel's Matamoros territory. He
couldn't find a safe place to hide, because the Mexican military was
constantly on his tail and so he crossed to the U.S. in May 2011, he

After Cardenas Vela was arrested in October in Port Isabel on his way
to South Padre Island, where he had been hiding out, he told federal
agents he would help them find Costilla.

Mexican marines arrested Costilla earlier this month in Tampico.

Cardenas Vela's distinctive pedigree, detailed descriptions of cartel
operations and experience running three different "plazas," or
territories, enable him to expound on everything from building rural
landing strips for cocaine-laden planes to arranging bribes for law

When he established the cartel's San Fernando plaza in 2001, he
arrived with $10,000 and, more importantly, the backing of Osiel
Cardenas Guillen.

"When I arrived, I did it step by step," he said of a series of
meetings with law enforcement and the local press.

Richard Zayas, attorney for Rincon-Rincon, asked how long it took
Cardenas Vela to control the highway police, state police, preventive
police, the Army, the Navy and the strippers who passed on
information from their clients.

"Less than 10 days," Cardenas Vela said.

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