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4th cartel drug defendant pleads not guilty

A man who federal prosecutors say conspired to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine pleaded not guilty yesterday in his first appearance in a New Hampshire courtroom.

Samuel Zazueta Valenzuela was arrested in Spain last year but fought extradition to the United States. He was flown to New England over the weekend and appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Concord yesterday.

Zazueta Valenzuela – through an interpreter – agreed to remain in custody without bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 5.

His lawyer, David Ruoff, said in court yesterday that he had just met his client and would need time and an interpreter to review with him the government’s evidence.

After court, Ruoff said Zazueta Valenzuela is “kind of overwhelmed by the whole process.”

“He speaks no English and he’s never been in the United States,” Ruoff said.

Zazueta Valenzuela is one of four men scheduled to go on trial later this year. Prosecutors say they are members of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel and part of a conspiracy that spanned the globe.

Authorities said the investigation began in 2009 when a link to the cartel was discovered in Massachusetts. Undercover FBI agents posed as members of a European drug-trafficking organization and held numerous meetings with the four men in Spain, Mexico and the U.S. At least one meeting allegedly took place at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, Ruoff said.

The cartel in July 2011 sent test shipments of pineapples and plantains from South America to Spain, then followed up with 750 pounds of cocaine, which was intercepted by the police, officials said.

Three others indicted last year remain at large, including cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman-Loera – known as “el Chapo.”

Since escaping prison in 2001, officials said Guzman-Loera has run the cartel from a series of hideouts and safe houses across Mexico, earning billions of dollars moving tons of cocaine and other drugs to the United States. He has been indicted in numerous states in addition to New Hampshire.

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