Nephew of Mexican cartel's ex-boss pleads guilty

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN | March 12, 2012 | 12:35 PM EDT

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The nephew of the former boss of Mexico's Gulf cartel has pleaded guilty in Texas to one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana.

In exchange for Monday's plea in federal court in Brownsville, prosecutors have agreed to drop additional charges against 38-year-old Rafael Cardenas Vela. He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Cardenas Vela was in charge of the cartel's operations in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville.

He was arrested in October following a traffic stop in Port Isabel. Two men arrested with Cardenas Vela were sentenced last month to time served for giving false statements to federal agents.

Cardenas Vela is the nephew of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison last year.