A former leader of the Gulf Cartel has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in the United States, a reminder that the once-powerful crime group has all but disappeared from Mexico's criminal landscape.
Former Gulf Cartel leader Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez, alias "El Coss," pleaded guilty in a US federal court on September 26 to drug trafficking charges and two counts of assault, according to a US Justice Department press release.
According to the Justice Department, Costilla-Sanchez assumed leadership of the Gulf Cartel following the 2003 arrest of Osiel Cardenas, once considered Mexico's most powerful crime boss.
SEE ALSO: Profile of El Coss
From that time until his arrest by Mexican marines in September 2012, Costilla-Sanchez ran the legendary cartel, conspiring to import thousands of kilograms of marijuana and cocaine into the United States, according to the press release. He was extradited to the United States in 2015.
In addition to the drug trafficking charges, Costilla-Sanchez also pleaded guilty to his involvement in the assault of two US federal agents in 1999.
Costilla-Sanchez will be sentenced January 4, 2018, and faces between 10 years and life in federal prison.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Gulf Cartel's fate was sealed after Costilla-Sanchez's 2012 arrest, and it is unlikely his guilty plea will send any major shockwaves through Mexico's criminal landscape. Indeed, by the time El Coss was captured in 2012, the Gulf Cartel had largely disintegrated, losing much of its territory and control to its armed wing, the Zetas, which had splintered from the cartel in 2010.
SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel News and Profile
Former Chief of International Operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Mike Vigil told InSight Crime that the Gulf Cartel is not considered a "true cartel" anymore.
"The Gulf Cartel was nothing more than a shell of what is used to be after the capture of El Coss," Vigil said. "It was already extra weak, like a horse on two legs, once Osiel Cardenas was captured."
According to Vigil, the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) are the major criminal players right now in Mexico.
"The Gulf side is not as prolific as it once was under the Gulf Cartel's former leadership," Vigil told InSight Crime, referring to drug trafficking activities on Mexico's eastern Caribbean coast. "The Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG smuggle [drugs] through the Pacific, so that has become the prolific route of cocaine coming into Mexico."