Joaquin Guzman Loera, (also known as ‘El Chapo’ and ‘El Rapido,’ was convicted last week by a federal jury in Brooklyn, NY of being a principal operator of a continuing criminal enterprise (the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel), a charge that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy.
(The drug lord behind the Sinaloa cartel was found guilty on all charges, including drug trafficking and conspiracy to murder, and faces life in a U.S. prison. Courtesy of ABC News and YouTube. Posted on Feb 12, 2019.)
But how did they get there?
The Evidence at Trial:
Guzman Loera was a principal leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based international drug trafficking organization responsible for importing and distributing vast quantities of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin into the United States, as proven at trial.
The evidence at trial, which included the testimony of 14 cooperating witnesses, narcotics seizures totaling over 130,000 kilograms of cocaine and heroin, weapons (including AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher) various business ledgers, electronic messages (text messages, videos, photographs and intercepted recordings), detailed a 25 year history of drug trafficking activity committed by Guzman Loera and his co-conspirators, from January 1989 until December 2014.
Guzman Loera was repeatedly referred to by corraborating witnesses as one of the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Guzman Loera oversaw the smuggling of narcotics to wholesale distributors in Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and elsewhere, which generated billions of illicit dollars generated from drug sales in the United States – that were then clandestinely transported back to Mexico.
Guzman Loera also utilized hit men (‘sicarios’), to carry out hundreds of acts of violence in Mexico to enforce Sinaloa’s control of territories and to eliminate those who posed a threat to the cartel.
(Vicente Zambada, a former Mexican drug trafficker and son of Ismael Zambada, testified Thursday against infamous kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Zambada described the rampant violence that accompanied Guzman’s rise to power atop the Sinaloa cartel. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Jan 4, 2019.)
Over the course of the decades-long drug trafficking conspiracy, the Sinaloa Cartel transported tens of thousands of kilograms of narcotics from Central and South America for distribution in the United States.
Guzman Loera used various methods to transport the cartel’s narcotics into the United States, which included using submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains with secret compartments and transnational underground tunnels.
Multiple witnesses testified as to law enforcement seizures of massive amounts of cocaine, heroin and marijuana linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest of which involved over seven tons of cocaine concealed in jalapeño cans, bound for the United States.
The jury also listened to recordings of Guzman Loera’s own damning words discussing his drug trafficking, corruption and violence. The calls included Guzman Loera discussing sending ‘ice,’ (referring to methamphetamines), to Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ohio and Tucson, Arizona.
(Notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube. Posted on Feb 15, 2019.)
Guzman Loera utilized a sophisticated encrypted communications network to operate the global narcotics trafficking operation, and as attested to by an information technology engineer at trial, Guzman Loera paid him one million dollars to purchase and set up a network to enable the defendant to communicate via the internet with his drug trafficking associates in Colombia, Ecuador, Canada and the United States without fear of being intercepted by law enforcement or his rivals.
The aforementioned witness devised a secure, covert system, which consisted of encrypted cell phones and encrypted apps.
The Sinaloa Cartel’s success relied upon the use of violence to maintain their control throughout the region and beyond, and multiple co-conspirators testified that Guzman Loera directed his hitmen to kidnap, interrogate, torture and shoot members of rival drug organizations, and at times, carried out violent acts himself.
One former hitman testified that Guzman Loera beat two men with a tree branch until their bodies “were completely like rag dolls,” before shooting the men and ordering their bodies be tossed into a bonfire.
The hitman also testified that Guzman Loera interrogated a rival drug cartel member, shot him and ordered that he be buried alive, and in one intercepted call, the jury heard Guzman Loera order one of his ‘sicarios’ to kidnap rival cartel members, but not to kill them without first checking with him.
(El Chapo may be behind bars, but for the feared drug lord’s cartel, it’s still business as usual. Sunday Night travels to Mexico to infiltrate the drug empire responsible for much of the heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine smuggled into Australia. Courtesy of Sunday Night and YouTube. Posted on Nov 13, 2018.)
The Sinaloa Cartel had unlimited access to weapons and law enforcement showed the jury over 40 AK-47s seized in El Paso, Texas, which were seized as evidence before they could be delivered to Guzman Loera in Mexico.
Additionally, witnesses identified photographs of various weapons, including grenades and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher utilized by the Sinaloa Cartel.
Guzman Loera’s own personal arsenal included a gold plated AK-47 and three diamond-encrusted .38 caliber handguns, one of which was emblazoned with his initials, ‘JGL.’
The evidence presented at trial clearly demonstrated that Guzman Loera and his organization took advantage of a vast network of corrupt government officials to further the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel.
These officials ranged from local law enforcement officers, prison guards, state officials, high ranking members of the armed forces, as well as politicians, who assisted Guzman Loera and his organization in exchange for millions of dollars’ worth of bribery payments.
For example, Guzman Loera and his workers were warned of pending law enforcement operations which allowed Guzman Loera to avoid capture on multiple occasions, and that Guzman Loera, through his employees, paid officials to turn a blind eye to trafficking activities in an effort to facilitate the shipment of drugs, weapons, and bulk cash.
(Former cartel lieutenant Miguel Martinez testified for a second day in the El Chapo trial. His testimony focused on the wealth Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman amassed while being the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Nov 28, 2018.)