Drug photo

A photo used in the trial of Juan Francisco "Kiko" Trevino Chavez shows drug evidence connected to Chavez that was confiscated in a drug and weapons trafficking investigation. The photo was presented in trial this summer, and Chavez was sentence to life in prison Thursday.

A Mexican drug cartel leader was sentenced to life in federal prison Thursday, about four months after he was found guilty on seven drug-trafficking conspiracy charges for bringing billions of dollars’ worth of drugs into Texas.

U.S. District Judge Alia Moses sentenced Juan Francisco “Kiko” Trevino Chavez to five life sentences for conspiring to traffic marijuana and cocaine into Texas as a member of the Los Zetas.

Chavez, 38, was described by federal prosecutors as a leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel that operated out of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and was charged as one of the cartel’s leaders.

Chavez did not testify during his trial in July, and his attorneys, Jose Salvador Tellez and Rogelio Rios, both of Laredo, did not call any witnesses in his defense.

Jurors in Waco’s U.S. District Court deliberated for about two hours following the seven-day trial and found Chavez guilty of conspiracy to possess and import marijuana and cocaine, conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy charges.

Moses sentenced Chavez to consecutive life sentences in prison Thursday for the first five counts and two 20-year terms for the firearms and money-laundering counts that will run concurrently.

“This is a culmination of an investigation that has spanned more than a decade, really,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Leachman said. “The Zeta drug cartel has historically been one of the more violent and problematic cartels that we have targeted.”

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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