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Brother of slain Gulf Cartel boss sentenced to 180 months in prison

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The brother of Miguel Villarreal, aka "Gringo Mike", a former Gulf Cartel plaza boss, was sentenced in Houston to 180 months in prison for his role in distributing cocaine, the Department of Justice said in a news release on Monday. 

Lee Roy Villarreal, 39, was convicted of conspiracy to sell 5 kilograms of cocaine, court records said. Villarreal and his associates ran a large drug-trafficking organization on behalf of Miguel Villarreal and the Gulf Cartel that transported cocaine from Mexico and Panama to dealers in Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Indiana, court records said. In a five-year span, Villarreal distributed around 150-450 kilograms of cocaine, according to the press release.

Lee Roy Villarreal was arrested in California leaving a club at 2:00 a.m., driving a brand-new Porsche, court transcripts said.  

At trial, Villarreal testified that he had a legitimate auto mechanic business. He said he had no illegal association with his brother, who reportedly was killed in 2013 by his main rival and drug boss Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, the Associated Press reported. 

Villarreal's attorney argued that his client didn't have the ability or resources to run a large-scale drug trafficking organization, according to court records. Twelve other people have been convicted in connection with the Villarreal case, the Department of Justice said.

One Mexico's oldest organized crime groups, the Gulf Cartel is based in the city of Matamoros, directly across from the U.S. border in Brownsville, Texas. The cartel has been losing strength in recent years as rivals and internal factions fight for control of drug-trafficking routes into the U.S. along the border. 

The Scorpions faction of the Gulf cartel was allegedly responsible for the recent kidnapping of four Americans and the deaths of two of them.

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