updated 11/22/2006 7:57:16 PM ET 2006-11-23T00:57:16

The ringleader of a group that fatally poisoned 49 people with bootleg sugarcane liquor laced with methanol has been sentenced to the maximum 30 years in prison, court officials said Wednesday.

Jose Angel Rodriguez was sentenced Tuesday along with six others still at large, each of whom received three years. The sentence was announced by Judge Aleyda Garcia in Leon, a city 45 miles west of Managua where the tainted liquor was sold in September. More than 900 people were seriously sickened by the liquor; some were permanently blinded or brain damaged.

The defendants were convicted of endangering public health, robbery and conspiracy to encourage delinquency.

Court spokeswoman Carla Cuadra said the ringleader, Rodriguez, was not present for the sentencing because he was hospitalized after drinking laundry bleach, apparently by accident.

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