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Cousin of drug kingpin 'El Chapo' gets 16 years in prison, pleaded guilty to conspiracy

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CONCORD, New Hampshire — A cousin of one of the world's most notorious drug lords who prosecutors say was working to distribute cocaine in the United States has been sentenced in a New Hampshire court to 16 years in federal prison.

Manuel Jesus Gutierrez-Guzman, 54, cousin of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman who led the Sinaloa drug cartel and escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in July, was sentenced Friday. He pleaded guilty in October to his role in a conspiracy to expand the reach of his cousin's drug empire into New England by distributing 1,000 or more kilograms of cocaine and other drugs. He was arrested in Spain in 2012.

Authorities said the investigation began in 2009 when a link to the cartel was discovered in Massachusetts. Undercover FBI agents posed as members of a European drug-trafficking organization and met with Gutierrez-Guzman and others in Spain, Mexico and the United States, including in Portsmouth and New Castle, New Hampshire.

During the meetings, Gutierrez-Guzman said he was a direct representative of his cousin and boasted that European distribution routes would initially involve shipments of 20 tons of cocaine at a time, according to prosecutors.

In July 2011, the cartel sent test shipments of pineapples and plantains from South America to Spain, then followed up with 750 pounds of cocaine, which was intercepted by police, investigators said.

"This case illustrates that drug cartels based in foreign countries will go anywhere to distribute their deadly products," said Acting U.S. Attorney Donald Feith. "Mr. Gutierrez-Guzman served as a representative of one of the world's wealthiest and deadliest drug organizations."

Gutierrez-Guzman also was fined $10,000. Feith said he will be deported to Mexico upon his release.

Joaquin Guzman escaped prison by going through a tunnel that led from his shower. After his first escape, in 2001, he ran his enterprise from a series of hideouts and safe houses across Mexico, earning billions of dollars moving tons of cocaine and other drugs to the United States, prosecutors have said. He has been indicted in numerous states besides New Hampshire.

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