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Chicago crew member gets 50 years in kidnappings, robberies

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 10:13 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — CHICAGO — A member of a violent crew that kidnapped and robbed rival drug dealers, netting millions of dollars in cash and drugs, was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Wednesday in federal court.

The crew included corrupt Chicago narcotics police officer Glenn Lewellen, who faces sentencing later this month.

U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall handed down the sentence on Hector Uriarte.

Prosecutors sought life in prison, pointing to his violent conduct over numerous years and a rap sheet with 30 arrests beginning at the age of 12.

But Gottschall said she was impressed by the little time Uriarte had previously spent in custody as well as letters from relatives who praised him as a strong family man. He faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 42 years.

“I really don’t think that it makes much sense … for anyone to think about Mr. Uriarte going on a crime spree” after he is released, Gottschall said.

Uriarte – who is 34, according to his attorney – would be in his 60s before he could be freed from prison.

For more than a decade, the crew robbed, tortured and kidnapped mostly drug dealers for cash and drugs. Its leader, Saul Rodriguez, was Lewellen’s paid informant for many years. He cooperated with authorities and testified at trial for the prosecution.

According to prosecutors, Uriarte often was armed with guns or knives while holding his victims hostage.

One victim was a 68-year-old grandmother, they said.

“I don’t wish anybody to live through what I lived through,” one victim, Pedro Avila, said of the ordeal in court papers.

Yet Uriarte’s legal team painted a sharply different portrayal.

Despite an abusive home while growing up, Uriarte played a central role in his family, including for his nieces and nephews, said his lawyer, Molly Armour.

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