Mexican Cartel Leader Sentenced for Trafficking Drugs to Detroit

February 11, 2020, 10:40 PM by  Allan Lengel

Marco Antonio Paredes-Machado

A federal judge in Detroit has sentenced one of the leaders of a Mexican drug cartel to 22 years in prison for distributing multiple tons of marijuana to Metro Detroit and other areas around the country. His organization also distributed cocaine to other parts of the U.S.  

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts last week sentenced Marco Antonio Paredes-Machado, one of the leaders of a drug trafficking organization closely affiliated with the notorious Sinoloa Cartel that was run by Joaquín Guzmán Loera (aka "El Chapo"). Guzman is currently serving a life sentence in a Denver federal maximum-security prison for drugs, murder and money laundering. 

The Feb. 5 sentence for Paredes-Machado covered guilty pleas in the Detroit indictment, as well as one in Washington, D.C., where he was charged with distributing both cocaine and marijuana. 

Paredes-Machado was indicted in Detroit in 2005 with 25 others. Authorities alleged that he worked with the violent Sinoloa Cartel to distribute approximately 40 tons of marijuana to Detroit. Paredes-Machada was arrested by Mexican authorities in 2011 near Mexico City and was extradited to Detroit in 2015. The Sinoloa Cartel, which relies on distribution cells and alliances inside and outside of Mexico, is responsible for scores of murders in that country, including beheadings, and corrupting people in the Mexican government including politicians, police and the military. 

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider

“Paredes-Machado was a leader in the Sinaloa drug cartel who for many years flooded the streets of our community and other places throughout the United States with marijuana and cocaine, ” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement for Deadline Detroit. “The lengthy sentence was appropriate and the defendant earned every day of it. I commend the unyielding efforts of the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who brought  this case to completion.”

Beginning in 1998 through 2012, Paredes-Machado conspired to distribute narcotics from Columbia, through Central America and Mexico into the U.S., federal authorities allege in court documents. 

Besides marijuana, Paredes-Machado oversaw shipments of tonnage quantities of cocaine in Los Cabos, Mexico, and directed a team of 20 to 30 men, authorities charged. By boat or airplane, he and others transported cocaine to different locations in Mexico that were controlled by the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, with the ultimate destination being the U.S.  

He was responsible for collecting payments for both the purchase of drugs from people who invested in the shipments and receiving proceeds from the sales. The transactions typically involved tens of millions of U.S. dollars, authorities said.

He was also in charge of the U.S.-Mexican border area in Agua Prieta, a town in the Mexican state of Sonora, adjacent to Douglas, Arizona. 

"It was part of the ways and means of the conspiracy to have loads of marijuana that had been smuggled into the United States from the country of Mexico transported to the Detroit metropolitan areas and elsewhere in the United States for distribution," a federal indictment said.

Heavy-duty Pickups

"Initially, the amounts of marijuana ranged in weight from two to four hundred pounds and were transported by passenger cars," a court document alleged. "Later, the amounts increased to 1 to 1.5 tons and were transported by heavy-duty pickup trucks equipped with enclosed trailers. In the latter stage of the conspiracy, a commercial moving van was used to transport one to two ton loads. Approximately 40 tons of marijuana was transported during the course of the conspiracy."  

In October 2018, his Arizona attorney Stephen Ralls, who has represented members of El Chapo's family, moved to dismiss the charges, alleging that Parades-Machado was tortured by Mexican authorities shortly after his 2011 arrest via waterboarding, beatings and threats against his wife for the benefit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to court documents. 

The attorney alleged that Parades-Machado made recorded statements under torture. The prosecutors subsequently agreed not to to use them. 

Judge Roberts ruled against the defense attorney's request to drop charges, writing: "The 'outrageous government conduct' defense is unavailable to Paredes-Machado because the government conduct in question is in no way intertwined with the criminal activity for which he is charged, and the government has agreed not to use at trial any evidence obtained as a result of the challenged conduct."

Ralls did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday. 

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