TIME Drugs

Top Member of Mexican Drug Cartel Aiding U.S. Authorities

Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla
Eduardo Verdugo—AP Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla is presented to the media after his arrest in Mexico City, March 19, 2009.

A newly unsealed plea agreement reveals a high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member has been cooperating with federal authorities since last year. If he is found to have given “full and truthful” cooperation, he'll get a reduced prison sentence

Correction appended, April 11

A high-ranking member of the largest drug cartel in the Americas has been co-operating with U.S. authorities since he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking last year, federal prosecutors in Chicago announced Thursday.

Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, who last April pleaded guilty to taking part in a “vast narcotics trafficking conspiracy” involving multiple kilograms heroin and cocaine between 2005 and 2008, coordinated logistics of narcotics deliveries as a member of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, according to a recently unsealed plea agreement.

Zambada-Niebla is also believed to have worked closely with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the cartel who was captured in Mexico this past February, although the information Zambada-Niebla provided is not said to have aided in Guzman’s arrest.

Although no sentencing date has been set, Zambada-Niebla is in custody and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a maximum fine of $4 million. If he is found to have given “full and truthful” co-operation with U.S. authorities, he’ll be guaranteed a sentence below life imprisonment.

Fernando X. Gaxiola, an attorney of Zambada-Niebla, declined to comment to the AP.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated where Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured.

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