Drug trafficker in Conrado Cantu case sentenced years after arrest

Many court records for the "El Kalin" case remain sealed or blacked out.

It's been more than six years since his initial arrest, but a drug trafficker that once bribed former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu has been sentenced.

Juan Carlos Sanchez-Vasquez appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville on Wednesday morning.

Judge Hanen sentenced Sanchez-Vasquez to 13 years and 6 months in federal to be followed by five years of probation.

The Matamoros man must also provide and DNA and get permission to re-enter the United States, if deported after his release from prison.

Sanchez-Vasquez Case

A federal grand jury indicted Sanchez-Vasquez and 15 others in a January 2005 drug trafficking case.

Sanchez-Vasquez, who went by the nickname ~El Kalin, TM led a drug trafficking organization that moved massive amounts of cocaine from Mexico and into Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia.

The group owned properties in Brownsville, San Benito, Los Indios and Harlingen, which were all seized by federal authorities.

Sanchez-Vasquez even bribed former Cameron County Sheriff Cantu with more than $3,000 dollars for protection back in October 2002.

Federal agents arrested Sanchez-Vasquez in February 2005 and he pleaded guilty in May 2005 but his sentenced had been delayed numerous times.

Court records listing the reasons for those delays in Sanchez-Vasquez remain sealed.

Conrado Cantu

A mugshot for Sanchez-Vasquez has never been released but court documents linking Sanchez-Vasquez to former Cameron County Sheriff Cantu are public.

They state that Cantu took bribes from Sanchez-Vasquez and other for protection.

Cantu was arrested back in June 2005 and is serving a 24 year sentence at a federal prison in Big Spring, Texas.

The former lawman is scheduled for release on July 22, 2026.