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Ex-Mexican chief convicted in U.S. drug ring

A former Mexican police commander was convicted Wednesday in Texas of helping run a notorious Gulf cartel's drug smuggling operation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former Mexican police commander was convicted Wednesday of helping run a notorious Gulf cartel's drug smuggling operation.

Carlos Landin Martinez was found guilty of 10 counts including drug trafficking, conspiracy and money laundering over alleged cartel activities from 2005 to 2007.

Prosecutors said Landin oversaw an operation in which traffickers wanting to use lucrative smuggling routes across the border into South Texas had to pay Landin a "piso," or tax, to move drugs in cartel territory. Landin was the Gulf cartel's second-in-command in Reynosa, a Mexican city south of McAllen, prosecutors say.

Drugs came across on people, on rafts and through a tunnel that opened up through a manhole in Hidalgo, Texas, among other means, according to investigators. The proceeds from drug sales all over the United States were then smuggled back into Mexico, authorities said.

Government witnesses, arrested on similar charges and hoping for leniency in their own cases, testified about the operations but did not have firsthand knowledge of Landin, also known as "The Puma."

An exception was Antonio Parra Saenz, who testified last week that he saw Landin in a black Suburban in Mexico before he was taken away to be tortured for 15 days after a large load of drugs was seized from his stash house in Pharr, Texas.

Landin faces additional charges
Landin's attorneys contended the government relied on "stories from jailbirds" for evidence that did not directly link Landin to the charges. Eric Jarvis, one of Landin's attorneys, said in closing arguments that the charges involve crimes other people were arrested for.

Luis Martinez Robledo, on trial with Landin, also was convicted on all counts.

The jury deliberated more than eight hours over two days. Landin faces 20 years in prison on each count when he is sentenced April 17.

Landin faces more charges in another case. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy charges related to the July 2006 seizure of cocaine and methamphetamine at the Pharr stash house.