McALLEN, Texas (AP) _ A retired Mexican state police commander was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday on drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy charges.
Carlos Landin Martinez, reportedly the No. 2 man in Reynosa, Mexico, for the notorious Gulf drug cartel, was convicted on nine counts in a federal jury trial in January.
The paunchy, droopy-eyed Landin, nicknamed "El Puma," said nothing when U.S. District Judge Randy Crane read his sentence.
But Eric Jarvis, one of Landin's attorneys, said later that Landin maintained his innocence and would appeal.
"This was a purely circumstantial case," Jarvis said.
Landin was arrested last year after an off-duty Drug Enforcement Administration agent spotted him buying watermelon in a McAllen supermarket. The agency had been building a case against him for two years.
Prosecutors said 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.
Drugs came across on people, on rafts and through a tunnel that opened up through a manhole in Hidalgo, Texas. The proceeds from drug sales all over the country were then smuggled back into Mexico. The charges against Landin covered activities that occurred between 2005 and 2007.
Many of the government's witnesses were also charged and seeking leniency in their sentences, leading Landin's attorneys to question their credibility.
Three of the counts against Landin carried life sentences, but his sentences will run concurrently.
Landin's days in court have not ended though.
Crane told Landin and his attorneys Tuesday to be ready for their final pre-trial hearing Friday on another drug trafficking case. That trial could begin as early as next week.
The day after his conviction on the original charges in January, Landin pleaded not guilty to five counts in which he was named in another 29-count indictment.
The case stems from the July 2006 raid on a drug stash house in Pharr where agents seized cocaine and methamphetamine.
Landin is also battling the government for the return of two pieces of jewelry in a separate forfeiture case.
The pendant of the patron St. Jude — which he was wearing when he was nabbed by a federal agent — is 10 karats of gold studded with 128 diamonds, 36 emeralds and one ruby, hanging from a 24-inch 14-karat gold chain, valued at $12,400.
The government alleges that the jewelry was purchased with proceeds from drug trafficking.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.