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Former Sinaloa drug cartel boss Damaso Lopez sentenced to life by U.S. court

A U.S. court in Virginia on Friday sentenced Sinaloa drug cartel leader Damaso Lopez to life in prison.

Lopez, 52, aka "El Licenciado," received the sentence after an agreement with U.S. officials, Animal Politico reported, citing Mexican state news agency Notimex. As part of the deal, he declared himself guilty of a drug trafficking charge and offered to help with Mexican investigations of the 2017 death of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez, the report said.

Lopez, who said he led the Sinaloa Cartel for 15 years, offered "apologies to the people of the United States" at his sentencing. He'd previously accepted a seizure of $25 million.

Defense attorneys said he's ready to cooperate investigators in Valdez's death as soon as the Mexican government requests.

While the information could not be independently confirmed, U.S. court documents show Lopez's sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Ellis was scheduled Friday at 9 a.m.

Damaso was extradited from Mexico in July and Mexican authorities handed him over to U.S. officials at the border between Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, it was reported at the time.

According to the El Paso Times, Lopez worked for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman as his right hand and was considered by authorities as his successor in the Sinaloa Cartel before he turned to Guzman's enemy. The Times said he was expected to testify against Guzman at his New York trial, where he faces drug trafficking charges. It began early this month.

Valdez, a Mexican journalist specialized in organized crime, was shot dead after he was abducted, El Pais reported in May 2017. Lopez was captured during a police and army operation in Mexico City that month. El Universal reported in May his name surfaced after one of Valdez's killers was captured and it was found he had ties to Lopez.

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