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90-year-old courier for drug cartel begins prison sentence in Rochester

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A World War II veteran who found a new source of income in his golden years reported to the federal prison in Rochester Tuesday. Leo Sharp is serving a three-year sentence for delivering drugs on behalf of Mexico's most notorious drug operation, the Sinaloa cartel.

WLS-TV of Chicago reports his attorney confirms that Sharp turned himself in to the Federal Medical Center at the Rochester prison, even though Sharp had once claimed he would kill himself rather than spend a night behind bars.

As WLS recounts, Sharp admitted to authorities that he became a courier – or "mule" – for the cartel while in his 80s. Michigan State Police officers who pulled him over for a traffic violation near Ann Arbor in 2011 found nearly $3 million worth of cocaine in his pickup truck.

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On May 7, Sharp's 90th birthday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds sentenced the Michigan City, Indiana, man to three years in prison.

NBC News says his attorney had requested Sharp serve the time in Rochester, where the Bureau of Prisons facility specializes in long-term medical care.

The Detroit Free Press reported then that Judge Edmunds called Sharp's crime too serious for him to avoid prison time.

“It’s not a victimless crime,” Edmunds said. “This is a huge drug operation, and Mr. Sharp was right in the middle of it. It would be weak for me to say, ‘Well, he’s an old man ...’ I think respect for the law requires there be some custody in this case.”

The Free Press said Sharp's attorney, Darryl Goldberg, called it cruel and thoughtless to send a 90-year-old man who suffers from dementia to prison.

NBC reports court documents filed by the government maintained Sharp had been part of the Sinaloa cartel's Mexico-to-Detroit drug pipeline at least since 2009.

On the day Sharp was sentenced the Sinaloa cartel was also in the headlines in Minnesota. A federal indictment accused four men of kidnapping and assaulting two teenagers they thought had stolen methamphetamine and money from a drug house the cartel controlled in St. Paul.

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