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5 Dominicans accused in drug killings sentenced

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) – Three Dominicans hired as hit men by an alleged drug boss known as the “Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean” have been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

A panel of three judges issued their ruling late Friday after a seven-month trial that included testimony from 75 witnesses. Two other suspects received between 15 to 20 years in prison and four others were found not guilty, with judges citing insufficient evidence.

The nine suspects were accused of killing five people and launching other armed attacks from December 2009 to May 2010 through alleged orders from boss Jose Figueroa Agosto, who was arrested in Puerto Rico in July 2010 after a nearly 10-year manhunt following a 1999 prison escape.

Prosecutors had sought a maximum 30-year sentence for all nine men. Judge Pilar Rufino did not say whether prosecutors would appeal the ruling of the four men released.

The five killings occurred in broad daylight in busy locations across the capital of Santo Domingo. Prosecutors accused Figueroa of paying $30,000 per killing. The charges against him related to the killings were later dropped because he was not available to stand trial and attorneys wanted to prosecute the other suspects.

Figueroa is in a New York prison awaiting trial. He is accused of shipping Colombian cocaine to the U.S. mainland through Puerto Rico and still faces several murder charges in the Dominican Republic.

Figueroa has been compared with Escobar, a notorious Colombian cocaine kingpin who was killed in 1993.

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