CHAPARRAL, N.M. (KRQE) – A federal court has sentenced a meth dealer and so-called ‘Artistas Asesinos Cartel leader’ to more than two decades in prison. The news comes after a five-year investigation into the local group that law enforcement claims is connected to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Between 2017 and 2021, cartel leader Jorge Marquez delivered and ordered deliveries of more than three pounds of meth to undercover law enforcement, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Marquez conducted some of the drug running operations while in and out of custody in Mexico, according to the DOJ.

Marquez is allegedly tied to the Aristas Asesinos (which translates to ‘Artist Assassins’) gang group. The DOJ says they operate as drug traffickers and enforcers for the Sinaloa Cartel. The Aristas Asesinos operate in both Mexico and southern New Mexico, the DOJ notes.

Marquez was arrested in February of 2021 at a Border Patrol checkpoint. Agents reportedly found meth hidden in Marquez’s vehicle’s dashboard.

After facing the charges in a federal court, Marquez and several co-conspirators were sentenced. Marquez pled guilty to several counts of distributing meth and received 327 months (27 years and 3 months) in prison. He will also have to complete a drug program and serve five years of supervised release after his prison sentence.

“Illegal drug activity brings danger to our communities—it will not be tolerated,” Albuquerque FBI Special Agent in Charge, Raul Bujanda, said in a press release. “Collaborative law enforcement efforts will continue to identify and disrupt drug trafficking organizations bringing violence to our streets. Investigations like this prove the essential value of strong law enforcement partnerships and working together to meet a common goal.”

Other officials note that while names like the “Sinaloa Cartel” get a lot of attention, the smaller, connected local gangs are often the ones affecting New Mexico communities. “The Sinaloa Cartel uses gangs like Artistas Asesinos to push their drugs, collect their debts, and inflict their violence,” New Mexico’s U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez said in a press release. “Local, state, and federal law enforcement, working shoulder-to-shoulder, will proactively target and bring to justice groups who profit off of the addiction, suffering, and misery of others.”