Kingpin Statute

The Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute (CCE), commonly referred to the “Kingpin Statute,” targets large-scale drug traffickers who control long-term and elaborate drug networks.[1] The Kingpin charge is historically reserved for the most violent, ruthless gang/cartel leaders. It carries a mandatory 20-year minimum sentence, yet the judge gave Ross, a first-time offender with all non-violent charges, a life sentence for this count alone. With Ross’s case, the prosecution conflated a website creator with a violent thug. See Vicarious Liability.

The assistant U.S. Attorney added the Kingpin charge in fulfillment of a threat. Ross was arrested on a criminal complaint of non-violent conspiracy charges that carried a sentence of ten years to life. In his first conversation with Ross, the prosecutor threatened that if Ross didn’t plead guilty to the charges, he would add the Kingpin charge, raising the minimum to 20 years. Either way, the prosecutor said he would recommend a life sentence.

The element of charge for the CCE statute is three predicate drug offenses, yet in Ross’s case, these were never identified, in violation of Richardson v. U.S.[2]

With no criminal history and all non-violent offenses, Ross was put in the same category as El Chapo and Pablo Escobar.[3][4]

Listed below are kingpins convicted in the U.S. with far shorter sentences than Ross’s.

Sentenced to DOUBLE LIFE without parole + 40 years


Mohamed Faraj
Kingpin charge
Sentenced to 24 years [5]
“A violent, armed drug gang located in northwest Detroit”
“…exploiting teenage boys to to do their dirty work on the street as drug runners and burning homes to use as stash houses”
– DOJ [6]
“…armed his workers with weapons…ordered workers to verbally or physically assault others who attempted to encroach on their territory or threaten to reveal their operations to police”
– Appeal Court opinion [7]

Carlos Molinares-Nunez
Kingpin charge
Sentenced to 27 years [8]
“…an especially sophisticated and violent drug-trafficking organization”

“More than 30,000 kilograms of marijuana were successfully crossed into the US… generated millions of dollars in profit”

“…over 30 individuals worked for Molinares-Nunez, who in turn worked for other Cartel members as a “gatekeeper”
– U.S. Attorney’s Office [9]

Demetrius & Terry Flenory
Kingpin charge
Sentenced to 30 years each [10]
“…a violent, sophisticated drug smuggling and money laundering organization”

“…admitted to obtaining millions of dollars in cash from the sale of cocaine”

“…multi-million dollars in jewelry, 13 residences, 35 vehicles…over $5 million in cash…numerous bank accounts”
– DEA [11]
“…moving hundreds of kilograms of cocaine…every month”
– DOJ [12]

Christopher Barret
Kingpin charge
Sentenced to 40 years [13]
“… distributed thousands of pounds of marijuana through the U.S. mail”

“…attempted to solicit the murder of a former partner… ordered vicious assaults of customers and workers”

“…was arrested for shooting an officer…fled to the US”

“…engaged in a shootout with a rival drug gang…escalated into a gun battle in the streets”
– DOJ [14]

Eduardo Arellano Felix
Kingpin sanction
Sentenced to 15 years [15]
“…a major force within the cartel leadership […] orchestrated the importation of hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the US”

“Laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in drug trafficking proceeds”

“The cartel terrorized the Southwest border and beyond with executions, torture, beheadings, kidnappings and bribes to law enforcement”
– DOJ [16]

Benjamin Arellano Felix
Kingpin sanction
Sentenced to 25 years [17]
“…one of the world’s most brutal drug trafficking networks”
– U.S. Attorney’s Office [18]
“Conspired to import and distribute within the US hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana…obtained hundreds of millions in U.S. dollars in profits”

“Bribed law enforcementand military personnel, and murdered informants and potential witnesses”
– U.S. Attorney’s Office [19]

Osiel Cardenas Guillen
Kingpin sanction
Sentenced to 25 years [20]
“One of the most wanted, feared, and violent drug traffickers in the world”

“…responsible for the ongoing drug trafficking wars and ‘bloodbaths’ along the Mexican border, resulting in the deaths of approximately 2,000 persons”
– Appeal Court opinion [21]
Assassinated the cartel co-leader in 1999, earning his name as the Mata Amigos (Friend Killer)
– Wikipedia [22]

Fabio Ochoa Vasquez

Sentenced to 30 years [23]
“Charged with smuggling approximately 30 tons of powder cocaine per month into the U.S. between 1997 and 1999”
– DEA [24]
“Indicted by a federal grand jury for his involvement in the (1986) murder of informant Adler “Barry” Seal”

“The cartel was responsible for the assassination of dozen of government officials, and the bribery of many more”
– DEA [25]

Note: Except for Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, all the defendants above were either charged with the CCE statute like Ross, or sanctioned by the Kingpin Act.[26]