CHICAGO (AP) – A federal judge sentenced twin brothers Tuesday to 14 years in prison each for running a nearly $2 billion North American drug ring, agreeing with prosecutors to drastically reduce their sentences as reward for their cooperation against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and other Mexican cartel leaders.
Pedro and Margarito Flores, 33, were portrayed by prosecutors as among the most valuable traffickers-turned-informants in history. With credit for the time served awaiting sentencing and for good behaviour in prison, the brothers could be out in as little as six years.
Security at sentencing in US District Court in Chicago was tighter than usual. To protect them, neither of the twins’ attorneys was named in court.
Chief US District Judge Ruben Castillo said the twins brought “devastation” to the country.
“But for your cooperation, you’d be leaving here with life sentences,” he said. He likened Americans’ sense of security to walls, telling the twins, “You devastated those walls, you knocked them down.” Castillo did say the brothers would be looking over their shoulders the rest of their lives – in prison and out – in fear that a cartel assassin was near.
“Even though I am not going to sentence you to life, you are leaving here with a life sentence,” he told them. “Each time you start your car (when you are out of prison), you are going to be wondering, is it going to start, or will it explode.”
The Flores twins, wearing olive-green clothes and with closely cropped haircuts, sat at a defense table, both of them tapping one foot nervously. Just before the judge imposed a sentence, each walked to a podium separately to speak.