RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Bomb-sniffing dogs were on hand during the sentencing yesterday of twin brothers in Chicago. They were once key figures in Mexico's violent and powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. A U.S. district judge agreed to reduce their sentences for drug smuggling, giving them 14-year prison terms. Prosecutors had asked for even less time, calling the brothers the most valuable traffickers turned informants in U.S. history. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: When 33-year-old identical twins Pedro and Margarito Flores stepped into the courtroom, it was their first public appearance since they began cooperating with authorities. U.S. District Attorney Zach Fardon says for years the twins ran the largest drug network in the city as a Chicago hub of the Sinaloa cartel, run by Mexican drug lord Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.
ZACH FARDON: And they pumped literally tons of kilograms of cocaine into our city as well as distributing cocaine to various other cities across the country.
CORLEY: Like Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. DEA officials have called the Sinaloa cartel one of the biggest trafficking organizations ever. So Fardon says when the twins became government informants in 2008 at the height of their criminal activity, it was a striking turnaround.
FARDON: The Flores brothers' cooperation allowed law enforcement to seize substantial quantities of drugs, substantial sums of cash and help lead to charges against Chapo Guzman and other senior members of the Sinaloa cartel.
CORLEY: The amount of drugs the Flores brothers smuggled into the city could have meant life in prison if not for their cooperation. But Fardon says it may, indeed, be life for the twins.
FARDON: 'Cause as the judge said, there is never a day in their lives where they won't have to look over their shoulder.
CORLEY: Before the judge imposed the 14-year prison term, the brothers apologized. With credit for time served, they could be out of prison in much less time. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.
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