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Mexican businessman pleads guilty in 1995 cartel drug trafficking case

A border tunnel discovered in 1993 ended near a business owned by the family of Antonio Reynoso Gonzalez.
A border tunnel discovered in 1993 ended near a business owned by the family of Antonio Reynoso Gonzalez.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

A Mexican businessman extradited to the U.S. 20 years after being charged with orchestrating shipments for the Sinaloa drug cartel pleaded guilty Wednesday in San Diego federal court to cocaine trafficking charges.

Antonio Reynoso Gonzalez, 72, also known as “El Ingeniero” or “the Engineer,” faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for conspiracy to import cocaine and possession with the intent to distribute. Prosecutors, however, have agreed to recommend a sentence of about eight years, asking the judge to take into consideration Reynoso’s age, health and acceptance of responsibility, among other factors.

Reynoso was one of 23 people named in a 1995 indictment accusing Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman of smuggling cocaine from Colombia through Mexico and into the U.S. via planes, trains, autos and tunnels.

Reynoso’s family owned a successful food-importation business in Los Angeles, which Guzman used to add legitimacy to the cartel’s business, according to the indictment.

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Reynoso admitted paying for a man to lease a warehouse in Mexico under the company name Distribudores de Basicos in 1993, knowing that the purpose was to store cocaine to be sold across the United States, according to his plea agreement.

About 7.3 tons of cocaine was loaded into roughly 400 cases of La Comadre chile pepper cans to be taken to the warehouse, but they were seized by Mexican law enforcement en route, the plea states.

Reynoso also admitted arranging a 390-kilogram shipment of cocaine hidden inside a hollowed-out boiler from Los Angeles to Chicago in 1994. The load was seized in Chicago. Reynoso was recorded talking about the shipment, the plea states.

The indictment accused Reynoso’s brothers, Jose and Jesus Reynoso, of obtaining a warehouse property for one of their food businesses in Otay Mesa so a drug tunnel could be built underneath.

When Guzman was arrested in 1993, authorities found a map in one of his safe houses that led to the discovery of the nearly complete tunnel. It ended just short of the Otay Mesa warehouse for the Reynoso business. (It came up short because the tunnel builders apparently relied on a faulty county map.)

Reynoso was among 13 top targets extradited to the United States a year ago as part of a renewed cooperation with Mexico to target drug trafficking.

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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