Man linked to cartel pleads guilty to entering US

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Associated Press

Posted on January 8, 2013 at 6:32 PM

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — An alleged high-ranking member of a Mexican drug cartel has pleaded guilty to federal immigration and firearm offenses in Brownsville.

Jose Luis Zuniga Hernandez — known as "El Wicho" — has been identified by federal authorities as supervisor of the Gulf cartel's operations in the border city of Matamoros. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally re-entering the U.S. and being an illegal immigrant in possession of a firearm.

Zuniga had already pleaded guilty once, but withdrew his plea in June.

Border Patrol agents arrested him and four others in October 2011 near the Rio Grande. He was carrying $20,000, cocaine and a gold-plated handgun.

Zuniga's lawyer had argued that he was fleeing for his life. Cartel infighting has driven several members into the U.S.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 24.

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