Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro-Quintero and more than 20 members of his drug ring were convicted and sentenced by a Mexican judge to up to 40 years in prison for the 1985 killing of U.S. drug agent Enrique Camarena, authorities announced Tuesday.
Caro-Quintero, 37, and Ernesto Rafael Fonseca-Carrillo, 56, the "enforcer" for Quintero's organization, were found guilty and sentenced to 40 years each for directing the killings of Camarena and his Mexican pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar.
The two apparently were killed in retaliation for their raids on Caro-Quintero's marijuana plantations.
According to Mexican Atty. Gen. Enrique Alvarez, the sentences were handed down shortly after noon by Judge Tomas Hernandez Franco of the 4th Criminal Court in Guadalajara. The men were tried earlier this year, but in Mexico convictions are announced only when sentencing is complete.
Time for related convictions of kidnaping, drug trafficking and weapons smuggling brought Caro-Quintero's total sentence to 116 years and Fonseca-Carrillo's to 144. The sentences are to be served concurrently, Alvarez told a news conference in Mexico City.
Caro-Quintero and Fonseca-Carrillo will be required to serve only 40 years of the sentences under a clause in Mexico's Constitution that prohibits longer terms for a single conviction.
However, before Caro-Quintero begins to serve the sentence handed down Tuesday, he must first complete a 34-year term imposed on an earlier conviction.
Fonseca-Carrillo must also serve a 13-year sentence on an earlier conviction before he begins his 40-year term for the Camarena slaying, Alvarez said.
Twenty-three other Mexican nationals were convicted and sentenced along with Caro-Quintero and Fonseca-Carrillo on lesser offenses related to the Camarena killing. Their terms ranged from the maximum 40 years to 1 year, 4 months and 15 days.
Since the convictions are drug-related, Alvarez ruled out the possibility that Caro-Quintero and Fonseca-Carrillo may be released before their combined terms of 74 years and 53 years, respectively, are up.
Ruben Zuno Arce, a Mexican arrested as he arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday on charges that he was involved in the Camarena killing, was not one of the 23 others sentenced in Guadalajara Tuesday.
"We have absolutely nothing against Zuno Arce," Alvarez told reporters.
The government will also confiscate property--including real estate, vehicles, and weapons--belonging to Caro-Quintero and Fonseca-Carrillo, and the two convicted drug dealers must pay unspecified fines, Alvarez said.
The Mexican government has refused requests to extradite Caro-Quintero to the United States. It remained unclear Tuesday what effect his conviction in Mexico would have on efforts to prosecute him in this country.
Camarena and Zavala were kidnaped Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara. Their bullet-riddled bodies, showing signs of torture, were found March 5 wrapped in plastic bags in a shallow grave on a ranch about 60 miles from Guadalajara.
Caro-Quintero has been identified by U.S. authorities as the head of one of Mexico's largest drug operations, reportedly directing a narcotics empire that at one time employed more than 5,000 workers.
Just before they were murdered, Camarena and his pilot had been ferreting out some of Caro-Quintero's most lucrative marijuana plantations. One raid at a plantation north of Chihuahua resulted in the seizure of more than $50 million worth of marijuana.
Mexican authorities said Caro-Qunitero had repeatedly sworn revenge against Camarena for the raid.
In Los Angeles, 16 men have been indicted in federal court in connection with the Camarena murder. Two other Mexican nationals, Rene Verdugo Urquidez, one of Caro-Quintero's top lieutenants, and Raul Alvarez-Lopez, a Mexican state police officer, were each sentenced in Los Angeles federal court in October, 1988, to life plus 240 years in prison for their roles in the murder.
The same court sentenced Jesus Felix Gutierrez, former owner of a Los Angeles-area seafood company, to 10 years for his conviction in the killing.
Times Mexico City bureau assistant Christine MacDonald contributed to this story.