A Mexican drug cartel leader whose arrest led to the torture and killings of 12 Mexican police officers has been sentenced in the United States to 43 years in prison on drug charges, according to investigators.
Arnoldo Rueda-Medina, known as "La Minsa" in the La Familia Michoacana cartel, was sentenced by a federal judge in Dallas on Wednesday. Rueda-Medina was also ordered to pay a $5 million fine. The cartel is responsible for smuggling thousands of kilograms of meth into the U.S. and stashing it in Texas and other locations, according to federal officials.
Rueda-Medina, 48, was arrested in Mexico in 2009 and extradited to the U.S. in 2017. Following his arrest, cartel operatives attacked the police station where he was being held with grenades and high-powered rifles. They also ambushed other government facilities and kidnapped the 12 officers in retaliation.
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The officers' bodies were bound and dumped on a mountain road, and showed signs that the men had been tortured. A piece of cardboard was left at the scene with a scribbled message: "Come for another. We are waiting for you."
"They were cowardly assassinated," a Mexican police officer, whose identity was withheld for security reasons, testified Wednesday. "It's something you don't ever recuperate from fully."
Cartel operatives are believed to have killed at least four other police officers and two Mexican Marines after Rueda-Medina's arrest.
U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade said he has sentenced more than 150 member of La Familia over the past decade, but he said Rueda-Medina was the highest-ranking member to come before him.
"You were at the top and you knew lots and lots of what was going on," Kinkeade said.
Rueda-Medina, through an interpreter at the hearing, said he had found God while in custody and was committed to ministering others in prison. He said he was a drug addict trapped and unable to leave the cartel because of the consequences he and his family could face.
"I had to either die or be incarcerated," he said. "I am now released from that heavy load."
Rueda-Medina pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The judge ordered that Rueda-Medina be deported after he finishes his sentence.