A former U.S. Marine was sentenced to more than 16 years in federal prison this week for running “the cartel of all cartels,” a criminal organization that helped to smuggle tons of cocaine from South America through Mexico into the U.S. for the major Mexican cartels.
Angel Dominguez Ramirez Jr., who was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and holds dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was sentenced last week in a San Diego court to 195 months for conspiracy to launder money and traffic drugs internationally, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
Dominguez founded and led a criminal organization he named “El Seguimiento 39,” according to court documents. The organization allegedly managed to create a first-of-its-kind alliance among some of the main Mexican cartels: the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel (CDG), and the now-defunct Zetas group.
Seguimiento 39 was known as “the cartel of all cartels” among law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Mexico, a former Mexican Federal Police chief told VICE World News.
“This alliance between cartels at the same time working with authorities and officials in both countries was very worrying,” the former police chief said.
Dominguez began to ship cocaine for the cartels in 1994, after a car accident in North Carolina killed his two daughters, ages 3 and 4. The car crash also left him seriously injured and ended his military career, according to Dominguez’s lead attorney Nancee Schwartz’s sentencing memo.
“He has never made an excuse for the direction he took, only to say that after the accident, he stopped caring. He was numb,” Schwartz wrote.
The organization smuggled at least 10 tons of cocaine a month into the United States when it was working at maximum capacity, and it sent about $10 million in drug proceeds back to Mexico monthly, authorities estimated.
“Dominguez purchased cocaine from sources of supply stretching from the Chiapas state of Mexico to Peru, including sources in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador,” authorities said.
“Other publicly filed documents note that El Seg 39 also used its contacts with corrupt, high-level Mexican officials to thwart investigations into its drug trafficking activities,” the U.S. Department of Justice said.
One of those Mexican officials was Ivan Reyes Arzate, a Mexican Federal Police Intelligence Unit chief sentenced in February to 10 years in U.S. federal prison for facilitating sensitive information shared by the DEA to Mexican drug traffickers, including Dominguez, according to Arzate’s court files.
“Wiretap evidence demonstrates that he controlled every aspect of his organization,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Martin wrote in a sentencing memo.
During his first court appearance last fall, Dominguez, 50, pleaded guilty to all charges. He will receive credit for the nearly six years he’s already served behind bars.
Dominguez was arrested in 2016 and was extradited to San Diego.