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Published On: Sat, Jul 20th, 2019

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, Sinaloa Cartel Leader, Sentenced to Life Plus 30 Years

Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was sentenced today by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan to life imprisonment plus 30 years to run consecutive to the life sentence for being a principal leader 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 Court also ordered Guzman Loera to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

Guzman Loera was convicted by a federal jury on February 12, 2019, following a three-month trial, of all 10 counts of the superseding indictment, including narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy.

Photo/Vectorportal via wikimedia commons

The sentence was announced by Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Uttam Dhillon, Acting Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security; Derek Benner, Executive Associate Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Bryan T. Mullee, Acting U.S. Marshal, Eastern District of New York; James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Keith M. Corlett, Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP).

The evidence at trial established that Guzman Loera was a principal leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based international drug trafficking organization responsible for importing and distributing more than a million kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in the United States.  The evidence included testimony from 14 cooperating witnesses, including Sinaloa Cartel members Rey and Vicente Zambada, Miguel Martinez, Tirso Martinez, Damaso Lopez and Alex Cifuentes; narcotics seizures totaling over 130,000 kilograms of cocaine and heroin; weapons, including AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher; ledgers; text messages; videos; photographs and intercepted recordings that detailed the drug trafficking activity of Guzman Loera and his co-conspirators over a 25-year period from January 1989 until December 2014.

From the mid-1980s until his arrest in Mexico in 1993, Guzman Loera was a mid-level operative of the Sinaloa Cartel, earning a name for himself and the nickname “El Rapido” for how quickly he transported drugs from Mexico to the United States for the Colombian cartels.  After he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, Guzman Loera formed an alliance with fugitive co-defendant Ismael Zambada Garcia and, together, they became the preeminent leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzman Loera enforced his will and maintained control of his drug empire through an army of lethal “sicarios” or hitmen and a sophisticated communications network.

The trial highlighted the methods Guzman Loera and his organization used to transport the cartel’s multi-ton shipments of narcotics into the United States, including fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains with secret compartments and transnational underground tunnels.  Once the narcotics were in the United States, they were sold to wholesale distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere.  Guzman Loera then used various methods to launder billions of dollars of drug proceeds, including bulk cash smuggling from the United States to Mexico, U.S.-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards and numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company.

Guzman Loera and his organization relied upon violence to maintain its power throughout the region and beyond.  Numerous co-conspirators testified that Guzman Loera directed his hitmen to kidnap, interrogate, torture and slaughter members of rival drug organizations, at times carrying out acts of violence himself.  As part of its arsenal, the Sinaloa Cartel had access to weapons, including grenades and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.  Guzman Loera’s personal arsenal included a gold plated AK-47 and three diamond-encrusted .38 caliber handguns, one emblazoned with his initials, “JGL.”

Guzman Loera and his organization also relied on a vast network of corrupt government officials and employees to protect and further the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel.  They included local law enforcement officers, prison guards, high-ranking members of the armed forces, and elected office holders.  In exchange, the Cartel paid these individuals millions of dollars in bribes.

“Guzman Loera’s day of reckoning has finally come.  Never again will he pour poison into our country, or make millions as innocent lives are lost.  We cannot undo the violence, misery and devastation inflicted on countless individuals and communities as result of his organization’s sale of tons of illegal drugs for more than two decades, but we can ensure that he spends every minute of every day in prison,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “The same fate awaits those who would take his place.  I thank the brave members of law enforcement, here and abroad, for their tireless efforts that have finally secured justice in this case.”

“The long road that brought ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera to a United States courtroom is lined with drugs, death, and destruction, but ends today with justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “Thanks to the unflagging efforts of the Department of Justice and the law enforcement community over the past 25 years, this notorious leader of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Western hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

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