The Chicago Syndicate: El Chapo
Showing posts with label El Chapo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label El Chapo. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Is Joquin Guzman, AKA "El Chapo" Planning another Prison Escape?

A lawyer for Mexico's most notorious drug kingpin, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, dismissed prosecutors’ arguments that he might try to escape from the Manhattan prison where he awaits sentencing saying he should have access to drinking water, sunlight and fresh air because they “are basic human rights.”

“Mr. Guzman has not had any access to natural sunlight or fresh air for more than 2 years now since he has been extradited to the United States,” Guzman’s attorney Mariel Colon Miro told Fox News on Monday.

“It’s concerning because our country prides itself of being respectful of human rights yet the U.S. government is not doing it for Mr. Guzman.”

Colon Miro said she filed an original motion for Guzman’s conditions of confinement in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on May 9th requesting that her client would be allowed at least 2 hours of outdoor exercise a week, 6 water bottles a week that he would be allowed to purchase from the correctional facility’s commissary as well as access to a general commissary list, and that he would be allowed to access a set of earplugs to help him sleep.

She said on May 23rd the government filed a response asking U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to deny all 4 of his requests alleging that he should not be allowed to exercise outdoors because of the risk that Guzman, who broke out of Mexican prisons twice, might try to escape again.

Prosecutors also cited an unsuccessful 1981 escape attempt at the same jail, in which a prisoner’s accomplices hijacked a sightseeing helicopter and tried to cut through the wire screening surrounding the recreation area. When that didn’t work, prosecutors said, they rammed the helicopter into the screen and then dropped a pistol to one of the inmates on the roof. The incident, even though it was foiled, “resulted in a standoff between two armed inmates and more than 100 armed, flak-jacketed police officers and prison guards in a population dense, urban area,” the government response stated.

The response said “any outdoor exercise would be particularly problematic for this defendant” who “successfully planned and executed elaborate escapes from two high-security penal institutions.”

This Sunday, Colon Miro said she filed a reply to the government’s response asking the Brooklyn federal judge to grant Guzman’s requests explaining that an attempted escape was “completely different” from the example supplied in the government response. She said Guzman should be granted outdoor access especially because he is not allowed to communicate with anyone but his lawyers and, therefore, is in no position to try a similar escape.

Judge Cogan sided with the government and denied all the requests in an order filed Monday saying the “defendant’s conditions of confinement are tailored to his specific history, including two prior prison escapes, and his specific crimes, including previously running the Sinaloa Cartel from prison and engaging in multiple murder conspiracies to kill his enemies, which were proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

Cogan also said the Government’s example of the prison escape attempt is relevant given Guzman’s history saying it would be “plausible that defendant could try to recreate such an escape attempt if the opportunity presented itself.”

The judge denied access to the general population commissary citing “security reasons” since many items on that list can be “weaponized.”

He also said that Guzman’s motion to purchase 6 water bottles a week is “denied as moot” since prison records show he has been receiving 6 water bottles a week since April 2019.

Cogan also denied Guzman’s request for earplugs saying the Metropolitan Correctional Center does not allow any inmate to use earplugs “due to legitimate safety concerns that the inmates would not hear guards in an emergency or would use them to ignore the guards.”

“I am shocked because the thing that we were requesting touched constitutional concerns and they were basic human needs,” said Colon Miro in response to Judge Cogan’s decision.

Michael Lambert, another attorney representing Guzman, told Fox News, “We’re distressed by the courts sacrificing security above all else in spite of valid humanitarian concerns.”

“We’re contemplating next moves,” Lambert said. “We are dismayed by this step back but we have no intention of abandoning this issue,” he added.

Colon Miro said one option is to petition the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Another option she said she is considering is to petition to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. “What Mr. Guzman is going through right now is plain cruel,” Colon Miro said.

John Marzulli, a spokesman for the office of U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, which prosecuted Guzman, told Fox News he has no additional comment.

Guzman, 62, will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty in February of trafficking tons of cocaine and other drugs into the U.S. as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. The three-month trial detailed grisly killings, a bizarre escape and drugs hidden in jalapeno cans.

Guzman escaped from jail in 2001 by hiding in a laundry bin and managed to evade authorities by stowing away in one of his mountainside hideaways. He was recaptured in 2014 but escaped a year later through a mile-long lighted tunnel. Guzman was captured again nearly six months later. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.

Thanks to Talia Kaplan.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Ghost: My Thirty Years as an FBI Undercover Agent

The explosive memoir of an FBI field operative who has worked more undercover cases than anyone in history.

Within FBI field operative circles, groups of people known as “Special” by their titles alone, Michael R. McGowan is an outlier. 10% of FBI Special Agents are trained and certified to work undercover. A quarter of those agents have worked more than one undercover assignment in their careers. And of those, less than 10% of them have been involved in more than five undercover cases. Over the course of his career, McGowan has worked more than 50 undercover cases.

In this extraordinary and unprecedented book, McGowan will take readers through some of his biggest cases, from international drug busts, to the Russian and Italian mobs, to biker gangs and contract killers, to corrupt unions and SWAT work. Ghost: My Thirty Years as an FBI Undercover Agent, is an unparalleled view into how the FBI, through the courage of its undercover Special Agents, nails the bad guys. McGowan infiltrates groups at home and abroad, assembles teams to create the myths he lives, concocts fake businesses, coordinates the busts, and helps carry out the arrests. Along the way, we meet his partners and colleagues at the FBI, who pull together for everything from bank jobs to the Boston Marathon bombing case, mafia dons, and, perhaps most significantly, El Chapo himself and his Sinaloa Cartel.

Ghost: My Thirty Years as an FBI Undercover Agent, is the ultimate insider's account of one of the most iconic institutions of American government, and a testament to the incredible work of the FBI.



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Inner Workings of a El Chapo's $14 Billion Drug Empire

The trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, and his conviction Tuesday on drug-smuggling charges, brought to an end the decades long career of the notorious “El Chapo.” It also revealed in remarkable detail the inner workings of the criminal empire he built, one that rivaled governments and multinational companies in its power and sophistication.

After a three-month trial, the 61-year-old, who escaped twice from maximum-security prisons, was found guilty on 10 criminal counts by a federal jury in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is expected to spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison.

Trial testimony laid bare the secrets of the Sinaloa cartel’s organizational structure, including how cocaine and marijuana rumbled across the U.S. border in the walls of freight trains, how in-house tech experts built encrypted communications networks and how the cartel moved money around using debit cards, suitcases of cash and private planes. It even built its own rail spurs to unload shipments.

At times, the underlings of Mr. Guzmán who testified sounded as if they were describing corporate life. Former operations managers detailed infrastructure, accounting ledgers, supply-chain issues and the need to “protect the capital of the investors.” Mr. Guzmán often referred to the cartel as “la empresa,” or “the company.”

The cartel, of course, was no ordinary business. Prosecutors alleged Mr. Guzmán was involved in dozens of murders, and had ordered the burning of two cartel enemies after he had shot them in the head. Cartel leaders also allegedly paid millions in bribes to every level of Mexican law enforcement, which helped them to stay in operation for decades.

The U.S. has called the Sinaloa cartel Mr. Guzmán ran the largest drug-trafficking organization in the world. The murders and bribes facilitated its primary goal: maximizing the profits from smuggling illegal drugs into U.S. cities for sale to American users.

Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers said during the trial he wasn’t the real cartel leader and had no money. After the verdict, they said he didn’t get a fair trial and planned to appeal.

At the center of the action, as described by trial witnesses, was Mr. Guzmán, who evolved from an impoverished teenager growing poppies in front of his house in Sinaloa to a ruthless drug kingpin willing to kill anyone who disrespected him. He owned a private zoo, paid his workers in diamond watches and had girlfriends who helped him coordinate drug shipments. He reveled in his notoriety, even seeking to get a movie and book made about himself.

Mr. Guzmán was just a young smuggler in 1990 when he made a pitch to a Colombian cocaine supplier in a Mexico City hotel lobby. Pay me 40% of your drug shipment, he said, and I will get it across the U.S. border faster than anyone, the supplier recalled in court testimony. The price was higher than that of other Mexican traffickers, but Mr. Guzmán promised both speed and security, thanks to the stable of federal police he had bribed.

The Colombian, Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, flew his first drug shipment to Mr. Guzmán on five planes that landed at a clandestine airstrip in Sinaloa, Mexico. In less than a week, Mr. Guzmán smuggled more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine from Mexico into Los Angeles.

Their partnership lasted for almost two decades. Along the way, Mr. Guzmán escaped twice from maximum-security prisons in Mexico. Prosecutors say he made at least $14 billion in drug profits before his luck finally ran out when he was captured in 2016, and later extradited to New York.

The cartel was a collection of drug bosses who each controlled their own territory in Mexico, known as a “plaza.” The Sinaloa state, where Mr. Guzmán was born, was the most important plaza, partly because it had a long shoreline for receiving cocaine shipments.

Mr. Guzmán was one of the cartel’s four main early leaders, according to the testimony of Jesus Zambada García, who coordinated the cartel’s operations from 1992 until his arrest in 2008.

Underneath them were sub-leaders who managed the plazas and hundreds of other workers. Pilots and drivers ferried the drugs. Engineers set up secure communications. Security guards protected the drug loads and the cartel leaders. Hit men known as sicarios carried out beatings, kidnappings and murders of cartel enemies.

Most important, the cartel established a payroll for corrupt officials who escorted drug shipments and tipped off cartel members about law-enforcement operations. The salaries for corrupt officials exceeded $1 million a month, one witness testified.

Mr. Guzmán allegedly paid $100 million in 2012 to Mexico’s then-President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, according to the testimony of Mr. Guzmán’s former secretary. A spokesman for Mr. Peña Nieto has called the accusation “false, defamatory and absurd.”

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Guzmán and the other bosses began a profit-sharing model to protect against drug seizures by law enforcement. Under the model, each cartel investor shared the risk of lost or seized shipments and the upside for successful shipments. The new setup significantly strengthened the cartel.

The most secure way to get drugs across the U.S. border, witnesses said, was through tunnels. In the late 1980s, the cartel wheeled bricks of cocaine through an underground tunnel it dug from Agua Prieta, Mexico, to Douglas, Ariz. The Mexican entrance was covered by a pool table that lifted from the concrete floor with a hydraulic system. Law enforcement discovered the tunnel in 1990 after a cartel member forgot to lower the pool table.

Mr. Guzmán, one of his early friends testified, needed to quickly figure out a Plan B to move tons of cocaine inventory. Cartel members hatched a plan to smuggle cocaine across the Tijuana border to Los Angeles on large trucks inside jalapeño cans.

The cans were packaged in Mexican warehouses using labels that imitated those of a real chile-pepper company. Workers packed them with a special gravel that would mimic the sound and weight of water if they were shaken by inspectors.

When Colombian suppliers complained the packaging was damaging their product, Mr. Guzmán asked the suppliers to send cocaine in a cylindrical mold instead of the usual rectangular brick.

Mr. Guzmán also came up with a way to move the drugs by train. At the ends of each train car, Mr. Guzmán’s workers welded metal walls where vacuum-sealed bags of cocaine and marijuana were hidden. The bags were smeared with grease to ward off drug-sniffing dogs, and workers poured 2 inches of oil to the bottom of the train car to deter U.S. inspectors from stepping inside.

The cartel leased warehouses and train cars using front companies that looked like legitimate businesses importing cooking oil. Workers installed train spurs inside warehouses in cities such as Chicago and New York, where they could park the trains and sledgehammer the drugs out of the metal walls without arousing law-enforcement suspicion. The trains returned to Mexico carrying legitimate cargo.

Tirso Martínez Sanchez, who handled logistics for the train route, testified that the trains carried up to $800 million worth of drugs into the U.S. Law enforcement discovered the trains in 2002 and 2003. One amounted to the biggest drug seizure in New York City at the time.

Whenever the U.S. ramped up border security, the cartel would recruit people, including families with U.S. citizenship, to drive across legal ports of entry in cars with hidden compartments, stuffed with drugs and cash. In a single day, the cars could smuggle in more than 400 pounds of cocaine, one witness testified. After the drugs arrived in the U.S., they would leave the cartel’s warehouses in vans and trucks.

Mr. Guzmán welcomed international partners. The cartel worked with the Italian mafia to sell cocaine in Canada, one witness said. Dominicans helped distribute the cartel’s heroin and cocaine in New York City. Cartel lieutenants said they obtained methamphetamine from China and heroin from Thailand.

Laundering the millions of dollars in drug proceeds, typically denominated in small U.S. bills, was a separate challenge.

The drug money often came back to Mexico in cars. In 1989, Mr. Guzmán’s brother, Arturo, was stopped as he was driving across the Arizona border carrying more than $1.2 million in cash.

Mr. Guzmán purchased private jets to pick up the cash at the border and fly it back to Mexico City, where it would be wheeled in suitcases to be deposited at banks, according to the testimony of his former money manager Miguel Angel Martínez. Each jet would contain at least $8 million.

Architects built stash houses for Mr. Guzmán with beds that could lift above the ground, revealing passages to underground safes. Mr. Martínez said the largest amount stored in a single location was more than $20 million.

To move money from New York to Colombia and Ecuador to buy more cocaine, the cartel used debit cards that could be loaded up with as much as $9,900 per card. Unlike cash, which is made of linen that can absorb drug residue and attract drug-sniffing dogs, debit cards can be easily cleaned. After the cards arrived in South America, the cartel hired workers to withdraw the money from ATMs.

Mr. Guzmán invested in cutting-edge communications technology to avoid detection by authorities, hiring engineers to travel to the U.S. to buy the latest equipment. Early on, cartel members cloned other people’s phone numbers to make calls. Mr. Guzmán changed his cloned number every three or four days, one witness said.

Mr. Guzmán told his workers to communicate only via BlackBerry phones when crossing the U.S. border, thinking they were safer than radios.

In 2008, he hired as his top tech specialist a millennial college dropout with his own startup. Christian Rodriguez, a young cybersecurity expert, told Mr. Guzmán that BlackBerry messages weren’t safe. He testified he built an encrypted network that allowed Mr. Guzmán to securely call dozens of cartel members, and set up a cloud server in Canada because he had read about the country’s strong privacy laws.

Mr. Guzmán asked Mr. Rodriguez to install spy software that would let him track the locations of his associates’ phones and remotely turn on their microphones to eavesdrop on their conversations. He wanted to hear what his workers, including girlfriends, were saying behind his back.

The success of the Sinaloa cartel spawned deadly wars with rivals that were bad for business, former cartel workers said. Drug seizures ramped up, and American authorities slowly turned Mr. Guzmán’s close associates into cooperators.

Mr. Guzmán spent his last few years of freedom running from authorities, sometimes sleeping on the ground in the mountains and waking up every half-hour, according to his lieutenant at the time. Even so, Mr. Guzmán kept coordinating cocaine purchases from Ecuador for shipment to the U.S., the lieutenant said, protected by an army of bodyguards.

After his final arrest, a month before his extradition to the U.S., Mr. Guzmán was still planning another escape. The reason, said a federal prosecutor, was because “he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes.”

Thanks to Nicole Hong.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Prosecution Rests Its Case and Joaquin Guzman Does Not Take the Stand in His Defense #ElChapo

The most common methods the drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera used to avoid imprisonment in Mexico was to either escape (which he did twice) or to not get caught in the first place. But now that the kingpin, known as El Chapo, is standing trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, his lawyers have been forced to mount an actual defense. As many had suspected, it emerged they did not offer one.

Mr. Guzmán’s case to the jury began at 9:38 a.m. when one of his lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman, called to the stand an F.B.I. agent who explained his own small role in obtaining a piece of evidence that did not relate to the defendant. Mr. Lichtman also read aloud a stipulation, noting that for several years, his client was in debt.

Mr. Lichtman finished his presentation at 10:08 a.m. “And with that, judge,” he said, “the defense rests.”

It was clear from the beginning of the trial that little could be done for Mr. Guzmán who, after all, had been under investigation by American authorities for more than a decade. Complicating matters, he had also effectively confessed to being a drug lord in an interview with Rolling Stone two years ago. But Mr. Guzmán’s 30-minute jury presentation seemed particularly small compared to the monumental case prosecutors brought to a close on Monday. For more than 10 weeks, the government buried the defendant in a Matterhorn of evidence from 56 witnesses, including recorded phone calls of the kingpin doing business and intercepted messages of him, his wife and mistresses.

Mr. Guzmán’s courtroom troubles began in November from the moment Mr. Lichtman delivered his opening statement. In a bold move, he claimed his client had been framed for years by his partner in the Sinaloa drug cartel, Ismael Zambada Garcia, who Mr. Lichtman alleged had conspired with “crooked” American drug agents and a hopelessly corrupt Mexican government.

Two main problems emerged with this argument. One was that Judge Brian M. Cogan cut it short at the government’s request, stopping Mr. Lichtman in the middle of his speech by telling him that anything he had said was unlikely to be supported by evidence. The other was that the argument, even if true, did not exclude the possibility that Mr. Guzmán was a narco lord guilty of the charges he was facing.

During the trial, Mr. Lichtman and the two other members of Mr. Guzmán’s legal team — William Purpura and A. Eduardo Balarezo — largely spent their time attacking the credibility of the government’s 14 cooperating witnesses. Their efforts sometimes worked and sometimes did not. Most of the witnesses had also been previously charged with federal crimes and usually confessed to their misdeeds before the defense could bring them out.

Before the trial, the kingpin’s lawyers had mostly focused their attention on pointing out the harsh conditions of his confinement in the high-security wing of the Manhattan federal jail. Given Mr. Guzmán’s history of jailbreaks, he was kept for several months in isolation, forbidden to occupy the same room as his lawyers. Pretrial meetings were conducted — awkwardly at best — through a perforated plexiglass window.

In several motions, Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers sought to persuade Judge Cogan that such severe conditions had eroded their client’s right to adequate legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment. While the judge improved the circumstances slightly, he was mostly unconvinced that Mr. Guzmán’s constitutional rights had been violated.

Last week, intense speculation arose over whether Mr. Guzmán might take the stand and become his own star witness. But after days of conversations with his lawyers, he told Judge Cogan on Monday that he did not plan to testify.

Little is known about those conversations because of the protections of the attorney-client privilege. But after Mr. Guzmán addressed the court, Mr. Purpura told Judge Cogan that he and his partners had explained to their client the legal perils of undergoing cross-examination. Mr. Guzmán then decided not to testify “knowingly and voluntarily,” Mr. Purpura said.

The kingpin’s lawyers will have one more shot at persuading the jury Thursday when they deliver their summation. But even that will be severely restricted if the government has its way.

On Monday night, prosecutors filed a motion to Judge Cogan asking him to preclude the defense from arguing, as they did in opening statements, that Mr. Zambada, known as Mayo, had quietly conspired with Mexican and American officials to target Mr. Guzmán.

The prosecutors not only said the claim was “preposterous,” but also quoted back Judge Cogan words from the second day of the trial. “You can have two drug dealers, one of whom is paying off the government and one of whom is not,” he had said. “That does not mean the one who is not didn’t do the crimes.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Highlights From the El Chapo Trial: Cocaine in Jalapeño Cans and a Tunnel From Mexico to Arizona, The Mexican Drug Lord’s U.S. Trial has Detailed the Inner Workings of his Narcotics Empire

The trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the infamous Mexican drug lord, has given the public an unprecedented look inside the operations of the Sinaloa cartel. Prosecutors have trotted out dozens of witnesses, including former cartel bosses, who have described how Mr. Guzmán and his associates built a multibillion-dollar narcotics empire.

The two months of testimony in Brooklyn federal court have revealed details about how the cartel smuggled cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs into the U.S. using cars, trains, planes, submarines and even underground tunnels. Witnesses have described the multimilliondollar bribes paid to law enforcement and the murders carried out during wars with rival cartels.

Mr. Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking, money-laundering and other charges. Getting Mr. Guzmán into a U.S. courtroom has been years in the making, after he escaped twice from maximum-security prisons in Mexico.

The trial is expected to last several more weeks. Here’s a look at some of the colorful moments that have already come out:

In the Can

In the early 1990s, Mr. Guzmán smuggled cocaine across the Tijuana border to Los Angeles inside jalapeño cans, according to the testimony of Miguel Angel Martínez, an early member of Mr. Guzmán’s crew. The cans were packaged in warehouses in Mexico using labels that imitated those of a real chile pepper company.

To make the cans sound like there were actual peppers inside when shaken by inspectors, workers packed them with a special gravel that would mimic the sound and weight of water. During the packaging, workers would often get high because pressing the cocaine into the can would release it into the air, Mr. Martínez said.

Mr. Martínez testified that the cartel stopped using this method in 1993, after a truck carrying seven tons of cocaine packed inside jalapeño cans was stopped by Mexican police.

Tunnel Effect

Mr. Guzmán impressed his Colombian suppliers because he was able to move drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border in mere days—much faster than the weeks needed by other traffickers, federal prosecutors said

In the 1980s, the cartel used an underground tunnel it dug from Agua Prieta, Mexico, to Douglas, Ariz., according to the testimony of a former U.S. customs agent. Cartel members would wheel cocaine bricks in carts from the Mexican side to the U.S., approximately 40 to 50 yards.

The Mexican entrance was covered by a pool table that lifted from the concrete floor with a hydraulic system. The entrance on the American side was located two blocks away from the U.S. customs office. The tunnel was discovered by U.S. law enforcement in 1990.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

In describing Mr. Guzmán’s lavish lifestyle in the 1990s, Mr. Martínez told jurors that his former boss owned a ranch in Guadalajara, where he built a zoo that housed tigers, lions, panthers and deer. Guests could see the animals by riding a train that ran through the property.

Jets and Suitcases Full of Cash

In the early 1990s, Mr. Martínez’s job was to coordinate money shipments for the cartel. He testified that drug profits came back to Mexico in pickup trucks filled with cash. After the money arrived in the border city of Tijuana, it was flown in Mr. Guzmán’s private jets to Mexico City. Each jet contained $8 million to $10 million, Mr. Martínez testified.

Mr. Martínez said he wheeled a Samsonite suitcase filled with at least $10 million in drug proceeds to a Mexico City bank every week to deposit. When the bank asked if he was laundering money, he said he was exporting tomatoes.

Border Run-in

In 1989, a U.S. customs agent stopped Mr. Guzmán’s brother, Arturo, as he was trying to drive across the border in Arizona with drug proceeds in his car. His black Ford Bronco was stuffed with more than $1.2 million in cash—a record seizure at the time for any port of entry in Arizona, according to the testimony of Michael Humphries, a port director with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

An Assassination Attempt

In 1993, members of the rival Tijuana Cartel tried to assassinate Mr. Guzmán at an airport in Guadalajara, Mexico, according to multiple trial witnesses. Mr. Guzmán and his bodyguard dodged the shootout by running past baggage claim and onto the landing strips, all while carrying $600,000 in a suitcase. They kept running until they reached a highway, where they hailed a taxi.

The shootout killed Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, a beloved figure in Mexico, sparking a national manhunt for Mr. Guzmán. He was captured in Guatemala shortly after and extradited to Mexico. Mr. Guzmán escaped from a maximum-security prison there in 2001 before completing his 20-year prison sentence

Bribery at Every Level

Trial witnesses testified about the bribes paid to law-enforcement officers at every level of Mexican government. Jesús Zambada García, the cartel’s former accountant, testified under cross-examination that he paid off Genaro García Luna—head of Mexico’s equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who eventually became the country’s secretary of public security—to ensure law enforcement wouldn’t interfere with the cartel’s drug activities. Mr. Zambada said that between 2005 and 2007, he met the official on two occasions at a restaurant to give him at least $3 million in a suitcase each time. Mr. García Luna has denied receiving any bribes, according to Mexican press reports.

When Mr. Guzmán was in prison the first time, his lieutenants paid approximately $30,000 to $40,000 a month in bribes to prison officials, according to Mr. Martínez. Mr. Guzmán wanted a cell phone and asked to have “intimate relationships” with all of his wives. He had four or five wives at the time, Mr. Martínez testified.

Mr. Guzmán escaped from prison in 2001 by paying off a prison worker who wheeled him out in a laundry cart.

Swiss Fountain of Youth

Mr. Martínez said he traveled the world with Mr. Guzmán, including to Macau to gamble and to seek out heroin suppliers. Mr. Guzmán also traveled to a clinic in Switzerland for cell injections to keep himself looking young, Mr. Martínez said

As gifts, he gave his employees new cars and diamond Rolex watches. Mr. Martínez said his annual salary in the early 1990s was $1 million.

The government blurred out Mr. Martínez’s face in their trial exhibit because of the death threats he has received since his arrest in 1998.

High-Tech Ducking

To avoid law-enforcement detection, Mr. Guzmán sent engineers to the U.S. to buy the latest high-tech phone equipment, including scramblers and wiretapping gear, a former employee testified.

He “cloned” other people’s phone numbers when making calls, changed those cloned numbers every three or four days, and wiretapped enemies, friends and girlfriends. Mr. Martínez said the wiretaps were critical to keeping Mr. Guzmán informed about his employees’ whereabouts, including attempts by anyone to betray him.

The cartel also bought machines from the U.S. and Europe to manufacture fake passports and IDs, including fake police credentials

Sunken Ships

Cocaine was often transported from Colombia to Mexico by sea, including by submarine, before being smuggled into the U.S. A submarine was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008 as it was carrying cocaine for the Sinaloa cartel.

In 1994, a large shipping vessel was carrying 20 tons of cocaine to the cartel. The crew thought the shipment would be intercepted by law enforcement and sank the vessel off the Mexican coast, according to the cartel’s former accountant. The cartel then used deep-sea divers to recover the cocaine.

Hiding the Money

To stash his cash, Mr. Guzmán hired an architect to build houses with hydraulic systems that lifted the beds from the floor to reveal hidden compartments, according to a former cartel member. At one house, the bed covered a ladder that led to a safe inside an underground water tank. The water had to be pumped out to access the special compartment.

Thanks to Nicole Hong.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

How Chicago became a Key Hub in El Chapo's Massive Sinaloa Cartel U.S. Drug Operation

In untold hundreds of truck and train shipments, tons of cocaine rolled into Chicago hidden among loads of vegetables, shrimp, and even live sheep.

The city acted as the American distribution center of the vast network of the Sinaloa cartel, and was run by Chicago twin brothers who had declared allegiance to a person they referred to often simply as “The Man.” Both would eventually turn against their boss, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and one of them, Pedro Flores, began testifying in Guzman’s historic trial in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

In harrowing detail over three hours, Flores explained his rise from dealing cocaine with family members on the Southwest Side to working as a top lieutenant for the world’s most notorious drug lord. He told an anonymous jury in New York that he has cooperated against some 50 people in the cartel network already, testifying he risked his life to help the U.S. government after considering his future and that of his pregnant wife 10 years ago. “Or that lack of a future,” Flores said. “That lack of living. I couldn’t promise my family tomorrow.”

Neither Pedro Flores nor his twin, Margarito Flores, have been seen publicly in the nearly four years since both were sentenced to 14 years in prison in Chicago. Dressed in navy blue jail garb, Pedro Flores took a seat in the courtroom Tuesday for a few moments before the jury filed in to hear his testimony.

Perhaps 30 feet away was El Chapo himself, a man to whom Flores estimated he once sent as much as $227 million a year from the cartel’s U.S. operation. Guzman has entered the courtroom with a smile and handshakes for his lawyers in recent days, but as he stared across the room toward Flores, that look had faded.

Flores was somewhat soft-spoken as he related his experiences, drawing laughs in the courtroom gallery at times with his likable demeanor. He described giving El Chapo gold-plated guns as a gift because Flores had “seen too many movies,” and recalled that the reputed kingpin laughed at him the first time he met Guzman at a secret mountain compound in Sinaloa.

Flores was wearing jean shorts. “He said with all that money, I couldn’t afford the rest of the pants?” Flores said.

Guzman has been on trial for more than a month at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, with prosecutors accusing him of drug trafficking as the head of the cartel. They have presented a series of insider witnesses, perhaps none more compelling than the 37-year-old Flores, who now ranks among the most significant criminal turncoats that Chicago has ever produced.

He told jurors his father welcomed him into the world of drug smuggling, using him as a child because his hands were small enough to reach into gas tanks of cars where drugs had been stashed. Their father was kidnapped and presumably killed when he ignored warnings and returned to Mexico in 2009 after drug rings suspected the brothers were helping authorities.

Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels, Flores explained how his early drug business grew thanks to a connection from one of his father’s friends to the point where Flores was taking shipments in a “grimy van” left for him at a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. Fels then showed jurors a photograph of a Denny’s in Bolingbrook off of I-55.

Early work to keep larger quantities of drugs in stash houses didn’t always go well, Flores said. The first time he backed the van into a garage, it hit the overhang and the drugs had to be unloaded on the driveway. The plastic bags they were in then tore, spilling kilos onto the concrete. “There’s neighbors out,” he said. “It was a pretty hectic day.”

Chicago was a natural hub for drug networking, Flores said, because of its location in the middle of the country and its infrastructure. “You’re practically halfway to everywhere,” Flores testified.

Flores was soon moving drugs to Milwaukee and other cities, where he eventually attracted the attention of federal authorities who got an indictment against him and sent the brothers fleeing to Mexico.

All of the growth sometimes meant lost shipments and drug debts, one of them leading to a dispute with a former supplier who apparently ordered his kidnapping in Mexico, Flores said. He described being handcuffed, blindfolded and stuffed in a truck for a bumpy ride to a building where he said he was held in a cell for days.

After his brother helped arrange his freedom, and with cartel leaders including Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada taking notice of the twins’ success, Flores described an early meeting with Zambada and Guzman’s cousin.

Zambada told the Flores brothers they would be supplied by the cartel, and that their business would grow again. The drug boss said “any idiot” could sell drugs in Mexico, but through his own experiences in Chicago, Zambada was impressed with how much product the brothers had moved in the U.S. “He laughed and said, ‘imagine if you guys were triplets,’ ” Flores testified.

The Floreses would get the same price for bulk cocaine as other top lieutenants, Flores recalled Zambada saying, and they would work on their own behalf.

The business did in fact take off again, Flores said. Drugs flowed through Los Angeles and Chicago to Philadelphia, Detroit, New York and Washington. Throughout his cartel career, Flores said, he moved some 60 tons into the states.

After boosting their supply, the Flores brothers were taken to see El Chapo, Flores said, telling jurors he went first to an airstrip in a cornfield for a 40-minute flight that ended on another runway that ran up the side of an incline in the mountains.

From there they were driven in trucks into an even more remote area. Along the way were macabre signs of the cartel’s handiwork, including a naked man chained to a tree. Flores recalled he appeared to be crouching and staring down at them as they passed.

The kingpin’s compound was a concrete foundation rising from the earth, he said, with a thatched roof. “Like you’d see on vacation,” he said. El Chapo appeared wearing a hat, with a shiny handgun in his waistband. An AK-47 rifle leaned on a chair nearby.

Guzman promised to solve the dispute that had led to Flores being kidnapped, and indeed, Flores said he heard that the man, Guadalupe Ledesma, eventually had been suffocated on El Chapo’s orders. Flores said his anxiety around Guzman eventually faded in future meetings, and that he brought El Chapo the gift of the guns — which were laughed at for being too heavy — and a gag gift of a pair of jean shorts like the ones Flores had been mocked for, which he gave the kingpin in a box shaped like a Viagra pill.

Flores described how the shipments just kept coming, with the cartel even employing submarines to move drugs into the U.S. without detection. The truck shipments came too, including so many with vegetables Flores said they could affect market prices by dumping them for sale in Chicago. And there was the one with the sheep.

The brothers were unprepared. And the truck was headed for a Chicago warehouse.

“I’m looking at a bunch of live sheep,” Flores said. “What are we gonna do with them?” The answer was a friend who was paid $10,000 to take them out of the city. Still, Flores said he complained up the chain of command that “I was concerned the cover loads were getting kinda weak.”

By November 2008, Flores said he had begun to have enough of the business. His wife was newly pregnant, and the cartel had split into two warring factions. One remained headed by Guzman and Zambada, and another by Arturo Beltran Leyva. Both sides wanted to force the brothers to remain loyal and never do business with the other side.

The brothers’ “sweet spot” in the cartel that let them make money without worrying about internal — and often deadly — politics was dissolving. Fearing for his life, Flores said he reached out to the Drug Enforcement Administration through a lawyer, and began cooperating.

That included making recordings, including of El Chapo, on a digital recorder Flores said he bought at a Radio Shack in Mexico. The jury is expected to hear those recordings in the coming days, as Flores continues his testimony.

As for his more recent past, Flores testified that he hasn’t always been on the straight and narrow. He worked a scam to flood other inmates’ commissary accounts with money, he testified, and got his wife pregnant again, this time in a bathroom while in DEA custody.

Still, his cooperation could be key in the federal government’s attempt to hold El Chapo accountable for decades of allegedly providing illicit drugs to addicted Americans. Flores said he made the decision he had to, knowing he was testifying in exchange for wiping out crimes that could have meant multiple life sentences.

“I could only give them one life,” he said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Judge Rules Jurors' Names will be Kept Secret in #ElChapo Trial

A federal judge in Brooklyn has ruled that the identities of jurors expected to decide the fate of accused Mexican drug lord  at a trial later this year will be kept secret.

US district Judge Brian Cogan said jurors’ names, addresses and places of employment will be shielded from Guzmán, his lawyers, prosecutors and the press. He also ordered that jurors be transported to and from the courthouse by federal marshals, and sequestered from the public while there.

Prosecutors offered “strong and credible reasons” why the jury needs protections, including Guzmán’s use hitmen to carry out thousands of acts of violence over more than two decades, Cogan wrote in the order, released by the prosecutor’s office.

That history “would be sufficient to warrant an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, but that many of the allegations involve murder, assault, kidnapping or torture of potential witnesses or of those suspected of assisting law enforcement makes the government’s concerns particularly salient”, he said.

Guzmán’s attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, said that his client was disappointed by the ruling. The defense had argued that an anonymous jury would give the false impression that Guzmán is dangerous. “All he is asking for is a fair trial in front of an impartial jury,” Balazero said in a statement.

Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive international drug trafficking operation.

Since his extradition in January 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with US officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

In the past, Guzmán used his connections to continue to run his drug empire from behind bars, prosecutors said. They also claim that in the United States, Guzmán had the support of criminals who are not under his direct control.

In court papers, prosecutors cited media reports about a YouTube video made last year – and since removed from the internet – by a group of federal prisoners in California in which they boasted in Spanish that they were “hitmen” at his service.

Guzmán is due back in court on 15 February for a pre-trial hearing. The judge has indicated he expects the trial to begin in the fall.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Felix "Lic Vicc" Beltran, #ElChapo CFO and #Chicago Fugitive, Captured in Mexico

He is the money man behind the world's richest drug dealer, according to U.S. drug investigators.

Felix "Lic Vicc" Beltran was indicted in Chicago in 2015 on allegations he was chief financial officer for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and its feared leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Even as El Chapo was arrested and continues to await trial in New York City, Felix Beltran had been a fugitive from justice in the Chicago case.

Until now.

The I-Team has learned that Beltran was arrested last Thursday in suburban Mexico City. 30 anti-organized crime agents raided a 9th floor apartment in the tony Santa Fe district southwest of downtown Mexico City where they say the Sinaloa CFO was hiding out.

Beltran is the son of Victor Manuel Félix Félix, "El Señor," who served as Chapo's chief financial officer and consiglieri until his detainment in 2011. According to authorities, "El Vic" served as his father's successor, handling most of the cartel's finances. Police say he was also in charge of the cartel's money laundering operation, and supervised the cartel's heroin production and export into the United States. Some reports have described him as El Chapo's "consigliere," the top advisor to a crime boss-usually associated with the Mafia.

As the I-Team reported in 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department described Félix Beltrán as "a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel trafficker" and the newly installed head of the lucrative Mexico-to-Chicago trafficking operation. That same year, federal prosecutors in Chicago charged him with drug trafficking and money laundering, charges from which he remained a fugitive until his apprehension.

Authorities suspect that Beltran took over as leader of the cartel's Chicago distribution hub after the arrests of Pedro and Margarito Flores, twin brothers from Chicago who helped to bring down El Chapo himself.

Despite cutting off Sinaloa's head with the arrest of El Chapo, his cartel continues to reap major profits from exporting narcotics to Chicago investigators have said.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago declined to say whether they would seek Beltran's immediate extradition. There was a Chicago court filing in his case on Monday but it was ordered seal by Judge Ruben Castillo.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ross Weidner.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Chicago Crime Commission Honors Outstanding Crime Fighters

The Chicago Crime Commission held its Stars of Distinction, 2016 Awards Dinner to recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions in fighting crime. Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson was the keynote speaker at the event.

The program featured eight awards presented to individuals and the organizations they serve in recognition of their outstanding work in law enforcement. The recipients of the Stars of Distinction awards exemplify the commitment of all law enforcement in their efforts to fight crime in Chicago.

"While gang members and other criminals provide an unending threat to our safety and security, it is important to recognize the individuals who put their lives on the line every day and celebrate the victories they have won," according to J.R. Davis, Chairman and President of the Chicago Crime Commission.

"The Stars of Distinction, 2016 Awards Dinner is a chance to honor those whose efforts have been instrumental in the successful pursuit of justice. It is also an opportunity for us to thank them and celebrate their outstanding achievements along with their family, friends, and colleagues," he added.

Awards presented and recipients of the Stars of Distinction Awards included:

LAW ENFORCEMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD
Because of an ongoing war between Killa Ward Gangster Disciples and the Bang Bang Gang Black P Stones (BBG), 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was murdered on November 2, 2015. The offenders – Corey Morgan, Dwright Doty and Kevin Edwards – all BBG members, were driving around the neighborhood, including Dawes Park, looking for Tyshawn's father, Pierre Stokes, a ranking member of the Killa Ward Gangster Disciples. The offenders entered Dawes Park and talked to several young teens playing basketball. They spotted Tyshawn across the park nearby on a swing. The offenders then lured Tyshawn into an alley with the promise to take him to the store for treats. However, in the alley, offender Doty shot Tyshawn in the head, hands and body. Immediately following the attack, Doty entered a car with the other offenders and fled the scene.

A few weeks after Tyshawn's murder, a task force was formed to investigate his murder and two other murders associated with the gang war in what was named "Operation Remember." The task force included members of the Chicago Police Department, CCDOC, FBI, HIDTA, and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Because of the immense dedication and hard-work by the members of the task force, Tyshawn's murderers were charged.

The Chicago Crime Commission proudly honors the following individuals: Cook County State's Attorney's Office ASAs George Canellis, Daniel Reedy, Jaime Santini, Brian Holmes, Emily Stevens, Thomas Darman, Nicholas Trutenko; Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Anthony Grubisic; HIDTA Analyst Carrie Moe; CCDOC Executive Director Brad Curry, Executive Director Daniel Moreci, Investigator Franco Domma; Chicago Police Department Officer Matthew Kennedy, Detectives Keith Allen, John Murray, Timothy Murphy, Daniel Stover, Michael Cummings, Jeffrey Rodenberg, Arthur Davis, Melvin Branch, Donald Hill, Patrick Ford, Michael Chiocca, Brian Drees, David Garcia, and Sergeant Will Svilar.

LAW ENFORCEMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD (STREET GANGS)
Through effective multi-jurisdictional partnerships, the DEA-led Chicago HIDTA Group 43 - Violent Gang Conspiracy Group - has been investigating an international Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) believed to be affiliated with multiple Mexican based cartels including the Knights Templar, Jalisco New Generation, and Zetas.

This multi-agency operation, made possible only through strategic partnership, information sharing, and careful planning, yielded the successful seizure of vast amounts of bulk cash and narcotics in transit between Mexico and Chicago as well as the subsequent arrest of twelve defendants, including a high-ranking member of the Chicago based Spanish Cobras Street Gang.

This Group demonstrates the very real importance of effective collaboration between law enforcement agencies and officers. The Chicago Crime Commission is honored to announce the recipients of the Law Enforcement Task Force Excellence Award for their collaboration with multiple agencies to ensure the perpetrators of the TCO operation are brought to justice.

The Chicago Crime Commission proudly honors the following individuals: DEA Group Supervisor George S. Karountzos, Special Agents Jomarr Cintron, Craig Schwartz, Paul Park, Nicholas Albert, Fernando Gomez, Christopher Marshall; Task Force Officers Artyom Postupaka - Lisle PD, Brette Glomb – Darien PD, Kristopher Kush - Park Forest PD, Donald Stone - Glenwood PD, Phil Hahn - Chicago Heights PD, Sergeant Alonzo Harris - Chicago PD, Lafayette Triplett - Chicago PD, Angel Amador - Chicago PD, Edward Daniels - Chicago PD, Defonda Louie – Chicago PD; Customs and Border Protection Officer Jose Venegas; National Guard IRS Olivia X. Rivera; National Guard IRS Natalie Uchmanowicz; and DEA IRA Kristeena V. Jackson.

LAW ENFORCEMENT EXCELLENCE AWARD (WEAPONS)
Again, the Chicago Crime Commission would like to honor another incredible instance of effective inter-agency partnership within the law enforcement community. For a significant amount of time, guns have been plaguing the neighborhoods of Chicago. Through the tireless efforts of ICE, HIS Chicago, FIG, and local law enforcement departments, guns that would otherwise be used to perpetrate unconscionable acts have been taken off the streets of Chicago.

Through meticulous investigative techniques and strategies, the multi-agency task force seized two live hand grenades, one grenade launcher, five .50 caliber assault rifles, a .22 handgun with a silencer, 25 other assault style weapons, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, six ballistic vests, and 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.

The trifecta of seizing guns, money, and drugs is indicative of the far-reaching tentacles of organized crime in our communities. The seizure and arrests of the subjects involved in perpetrating criminal acts is also telling of the hardworking and determined law enforcement members who collaborate each day to make our streets safer.

Based on the successful efforts of the task force, the Chicago Crime Commission is proud to announce the following recipients of the Law Enforcement Excellence Award: HIS Chicago Financial Investigations Group Special Agents Matt Daoud, Matt Gauder, Tino Gonzalez, Jan Markiewicz, Robert Melone, Stefanie Moton, Kenneth Popovits, Matthew Siffermann, Spencer Taub, David Vanderlaan, Criminal Research Specialist Maureen McDougall, Financial Analyst Louis Sastre; ICE Enforcement Removal Officer Frank Trevino, Task Force Officers Sami Alnemri – Chicago PD, Garrick Amschl – Olympia Fields PD,  Juan Carrillo – Streamwood PD, David Dileto – New Lenox PD,  Jose Gonzalez – Addison PD, Tom LaPak – Hoffman Estates PD, Joel Mantia – Will County Sheriff's Office, Daniel Raysby – DuPage County Sheriff's Office, Vicente Roman – Lombard PD, Bilos Thomas – Chicago PD; Kane County State's Attorney's Office First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason, Assistant State's Attorney William Engerman; Kane County Sheriff's Office Bomb and Arson Unit Sergeant Kevin Tindall, Deputy Brad Zentmyer; Chicago Police Department Cage Team Police Officers Jacinta O'Driscoll, Robert Garcia, Enrico Dixon; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Group Supervisor Timothy Wilson, Special Agent Levi Tinder, Certified Explosives Specialist Tina Sherrow; Elgin Police Department's Special Investigations Unit Detective Sergeant Chris Jensen, Detectives Tom Wolek, Heather Robinson, Canine Officer Marshall Kite.

EXCELLENCE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT (ILLEGAL NARCOTICS)
Just over three years ago, the Chicago Crime Commission named Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera of the Sinaloa Cartel as its Public Enemy Number 1. Despite El Chapo being imprisoned in Mexico, his cartel continues to perpetuate crimes that impact the Chicagoland area. The efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), "Operation Tiburon" and "Operation Buzz Kill" – a joint state and federal investigation – have brought many members of El Chapo's gang enterprise to justice. Such individuals included many high-level members of the Sinaloa Cartel operating in multiple countries and multiple cities in the United States, including Chicago.

Through OCDETF's work they dismantled one of the largest drug trafficking organizations ever charged in Chicago, which was originally a simple Chicago street gang case. The Sinaloa Cartel supplied most of the heroin in the region and 1,500 – 2,000 kilograms of cocaine each month. To date, these investigations have resulted in federal indictments of 67 defendants, including Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman Loera and other high level Sinaloa targets, the seizure of over $32 million in U.S. currency, 3,100 kilograms of cocaine, 72 kilograms of heroin, 704 pounds of methamphetamine, 25 weapons, and 32 vehicles.  In total, the investigation sought over $1.8 billion.

The perseverance of the dedicated and passionate law enforcement members again illustrates how impactful and powerful our collective efforts are in ensuring the safety of our communities. The Chicago Crime Commission honors those members of the OCDETF task force who strive each day to end the influx of guns, violence, and drugs into the Chicagoland area including: Drug Enforcement Administration Group Supervisor Todd C. Smith, Special Agents John Buonincontro, Billy Conrad, Louis Gade, Robert Fergus, Emilia Fernandez, Jessica Ipema, Matthew McCarthy, Christopher O'Reilly, Dorothy Sells, Jennifer Vann, Donald Wood; TFOs Craig Clark – Palos Heights PD,  Teddy Fox – Chicago PD, Jennifer Guest - IRS-CID, James Healy - Evergreen Park PD, Jason Lippy - DEA Intelligence Research, Calvin Lucius - Calumet City PD, Chris Pedicini - Oak Park PD, Vincent Zehme - IRS-CID; DEA Investigative Assistant – Barbara Wynne; Christopher Hotaling, Chief of Narcotics – NDIL; Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michael Ferrera, Erika Csicsila, Lindsay Jenkins, Renai Rodney, Sean Franzblau, Kathryn Malizia, Angel Krull, Georgia Alexakis, and James Durkin.

MITCH MARS PROSECUTORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARD
Law enforcement includes a host of essential foundations within society, and among them is the successful prosecution of criminal activity. Effective prosecution of crime and criminals serves as a truly foundational element of a healthy, law-abiding, and thriving humanity, and the law enforcement professionals dedicated to this service make a difference every day.

On the night of September 27, 2006, Metra Police Officer Thomas Cook was working a detail at the Harvey Metra rail station. The detail was formed in response to multiple armed robberies at that location. As Officer Cook sat in his squad car, Jemetric Nicholson approached the car and shot Officer Cook two times in the head. Nicholson then took Officer Cook's service weapon and fled the scene. Over the course of the next several weeks, the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, with the assistance of the Metra PD and the Harvey PD, led an investigation into Officer Cook's murder. The investigators followed up on hundreds of leads, executed search warrants, and interviewed dozens of people.

During the task force's investigation, they learned that Nicholson had shot two men as they stood in a car wash on the night of September 26, 2006, and that Nicholson and anther individual, Jeremy Lloyd, attempted a drive-by murder of rival gang members. As they fled that scene, Nicholson and Lloyd fired shots at a Harvey police officer. Furthermore, the task force learned that Nicholson shot a rival gang member in the face on October 2, 2006. Based on the task force's work, Lloyd was charged with First Degree Murder and agreed to testify against Nicholson in exchange for a sentencing recommendation of 20 years for murder and attempted murder of a police officer. In November 2010, Nicholson was charged with First Degree Murder in the death of Officer Cook.

Between 2011 and 2015, Nicholson was tried and convicted of attempted murder of five people in two separate shootings. He was sentenced to 125 years. Finally, in January 2016, Nicholson was convicted of First Degree Murder of Officer Cook. He was sentenced to Life in Prison. In all, five men were charged with violent crimes ranging from armed robbery to the murder of Officer Cook. Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of the investigators and prosecutors on the case, Officer Cook and his family received the justice they deserve.

The Chicago Crime Commission very proudly announces the recipients of the Mitch Mars Prosecutorial Excellence Award: Cook County State's Attorney's Office Assistant State's Attorneys Joseph Kosman, Theodore Lagerwall, Cheryl Schroeder-Hagendorn, and Michael Golden.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
The background and credentials of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient stand and deserve tremendous commendation. Deputy Robert Skrypek began his career at the sheriff's office in May of 1995. Since then, he has served with honor in the following divisions: court security, highway patrol, tactical response team sniper, criminal investigations, warrants, cybercrimes unit, juvenile officer and field training unit.

During Deputy Skrypek's career, he helped track down Lake County's 10 Most Wanted fugitives, located parents who owed several thousands of dollars in back child support and managed approximately 180 registered sex offenders. Moreover, in 2006, he worked as a special investigator on a case involving the mayor of a local village in Lake County for distribution of child pornography. That case resulted in a conviction of the mayor for possession and distribution of child pornography.

The Chicago Crime Commission is proud to recognize these lifelong commitments and commends Deputy Skrypek for his many years of service and dedication to the law enforcement community and to the citizens of our country.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AWARD
This year, the Chicago Crime Commission added the Community Engagement Award to the evening's list of accolades. This award recognizes individuals and organizations that seek to significantly enhance the lives of others in the community and empower them to succeed.

In that spirit, this year's Community Engagement Award goes to Youth Guidance's Executive Director Michelle Morrison, Chairman Michael Crowley and Becoming a Man Founder Anthony Divittorio. Through their work, Youth Guidance championed and implemented the Becoming a Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW) programs in Chicago with great success. The BAM program was launched to help young men navigate difficult circumstances that threaten their future. A safe space was created at Clemente High School for young men to openly express themselves, receive support and develop the social and emotional skills necessary to succeed. Now in its 15th year, the BAM program is set to serve 4,080 youth in 60-plus Chicagoland schools in the 2016-17 academic year. Specifically, BAM, which operates within many Chicago public schools in neighborhoods with high rates of gang violence, drugs and violence works on getting young men into their program before they're drawn into gang life or drop out of school. In June 2016 researchers from the University of Chicago Crime Lab released new findings from a randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of BAM during the 2013-15 academic years. Findings show that BAM reduced violent crime arrests by 50 percent, reduced total arrests by 35 percent, and improved school engagement for male Chicago Public Schools students.

PAWS OF DISTINCTION AWARD
The final award this evening is always one of great interest, and despite its recipient being a canine, is nevertheless illustrative of an important and meaningful contribution in the law enforcement community.

This year the PAWS of Distinction Award goes to Deputy Somerville and his Deputy K-9, Diesel, of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Diesel is a two-year old German Shepherd. Deputy Somerville and Diesel have been partners since completing an intensive 8-week training program together in June 2015. They have been inseparable since that time. Through their time together on the streets of Lake County, they have proven to be forces to be reckoned with. Though examples of their heroism are boundless, two necessitate sharing. After a report came in of an individual who was trying to commit suicide, was badly bleeding, and fled, Diesel picked up that individual's scent and tracked her through a heavily traveled trail. Diesel located the individual under some brush and alerted other officers of his findings. The individual was rushed to the hospital. Had it not been for Diesel, the individual may not have lived. Furthermore, Diesel assisted the North Chicago Police Department with a search for a bank robbery suspect who robbed a credit union at gun point. North Chicago PD dispatched Deputy Somerville and Diesel to assist them after the bank robbery suspect fled on bicycle and foot. Diesel tracked the suspect's scent found on the bicycle and went through yards and over fences before locating the suspect in a crawl space in the back of a house. Diesel commenced barking and growling once on site, and the suspect surrendered to North Chicago PD without incident or injury.

The Chicago Crime Commission is pleased to present this year's Paws of Distinction Award to Deputy Somerville and his canine partner, Diesel. Their deserving contributions have enhanced the quality and capacity of our criminal justice system.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Full Details on Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, of the #SinaloaCartel, Guilty Plea and Cooperation with US Feds

A high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico pleaded guilty a year ago to participating in a vast narcotics trafficking conspiracy and is cooperating with the United States, federal law enforcement officials announced.  A written plea agreement with the defendant, Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, was made public in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Zambada-Niebla, 39, pleaded guilty on April 3, 2013, before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo.  Zambada-Niebla was arrested in Mexico in 2009, and he was extradited to the United States in February 2010.

Zambada-Niebla remains in U.S. custody and no sentencing date has been set.  Under the plea agreement, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison¸ a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and a maximum fine of $4 million.  If the government determines at the time of sentencing that Zambada-Niebla has continued to provide full and truthful cooperation, as required by the plea agreement, the government will move to depart below the anticipated advisory federal sentencing guideline of life imprisonment.  In addition, Zambada-Niebla agreed not to contest a forfeiture judgment of more than $1.37 billion.

“This guilty plea is a testament to the tireless determination of the leadership and special agents of DEA’s Chicago office to hold accountable those individuals at the highest levels of the drug trafficking cartels who are responsible for flooding Chicago with cocaine and heroin and reaping the profits,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.  Mr. Fardon announced the guilty plea with Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Zambada-Niebla pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin between 2005 and 2008.  More specifically, the plea agreement describes the distribution of multiple tons of cocaine, often involving hundreds of kilograms at a time on a monthly, if not weekly, basis between 2005 and 2008.  The guilty plea means that there will be no trial for Zambada-Niebla, whose case was severed from that of his co-defendants.  Among his co-defendants are his father, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, also known as “Mayo,” and Joaquin Guzman-Loera, also known as “Chapo,” both alleged leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Zambada-Garcia is a fugitive believed to be in Mexico, and Guzman-Loera is in Mexican custody after being arrested this past February.

Zambada-Niebla admitted that between May 2005 and December 2008, he was a high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel and was responsible for many aspects of its drug trafficking operations, “both independently and as a trusted lieutenant for his father,” for whom he acted as a surrogate and logistical coordinator, the plea agreement states.  Zambada-Niebla admitted he was aware that his father was among the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel since the 1970s and their principal livelihood was derived from their sale of narcotics in the United States.

Zambada-Niebla admitted that he participated in coordinating the importation of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Central and South American countries, including Colombia and Panama, into the interior of Mexico, and facilitated the transportation and storage of these shipments within Mexico.  The cartel used various means of transportation, including private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.

Zambada-Niebla “subsequently assisted in coordinating the delivery of cocaine to wholesale distributors in Mexico, knowing that these distributors would in turn smuggle multi-ton quantities of cocaine, generally in shipments of hundreds of kilograms at a time, as well as on at least one occasion, multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, from Mexico across the United States border, and then into and throughout the United States, including Chicago,” according to the plea agreement.

On most occasions, the Sinaloa Cartel supplied this cocaine and heroin to wholesalers on consignment, including to cooperating co-defendants Pedro and Margarito Flores, whom Zambada-Niebla knew distributed multi-ton quantities of cocaine and multi-kilogram quantities of heroin in Chicago, and in turn sent payment to Zambada-Niebla and other cartel leaders.  Zambada-Niebla also admitted being aware of, and directly participating in, transporting large quantities of narcotics cash proceeds from the U.S. to Mexico.

Zambada-Niebla also admitted that he and his father, as well as other members of the Sinaloa Cartel, “were protected by the ubiquitous presence of weapons,” and that he had “constant bodyguards who possessed numerous military-caliber weapons.”  Zambada-Niebla also admitted that he was aware that the cartel used violence and made credible threats of violence to rival cartels and to law enforcement in Mexico to facilitate its business.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Continues to Target #SinaloaCartel with Support from DEA

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) reported the designation of Jose Guadalupe Tapia Quintero, a Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico based senior lieutenant of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Jose Guadalupe Tapia Quintero was designated for his role in the drug trafficking activities of Ismael "Mayo" Zambada Garcia and for playing a significant role in international drug trafficking.

"DEA and its OFAC partners will not allow these dangerous cartels and their associates to exploit the U.S. financial system," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman.  "We're relentlessly following the financial trail to deprive these traffickers of their assets, draining the lifeblood from their criminal enterprises."

Tapia Quintero oversees the transportation of cocaine and marijuana for the Zambada Garcia drug trafficking organization and is responsible for coordinating the purchase and transportation of cocaine and methamphetamine from Sinaloa into the U.S., specifically Arizona and California, on a monthly basis.  Tapia Quintero also transports methamphetamine on behalf of a drug trafficking cell affiliated with Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera from Sinaloa to Tijuana, Baja California via tractor trailers.  The President identified Joaquin Guzman Loera, Ismael Zambada Garcia, and the Sinaloa Cartel as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act in 2001, 2002 and 2009, respectively.

Pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), this designation generally prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with Tapia Quintero, and also freezes any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

"We will continue to target all aspects of the narcotics trade," said Treasury's Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Adam J. Szubin.  "Our actions will focus on their financial nerve points as well as the underlying logistics which are essential to their day to day operations such as the transportation network that we are taking action against today."

This action would not have been possible without the support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), specifically the Phoenix Field Division, and the multi-agency OCDETF Strike Force.

Since June 2000, the President has identified 103 drug kingpins, and OFAC has designated more than 1300 entities and individuals, pursuant to the Kingpin Act. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"El Chapo" Named World's Most Powerful Drug Trafficker

The U.S. Treasury Department called Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman "the world's most powerful drug trafficker" Tuesday. The fugitive Sinaloa cartel leader also got a boost from Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo, who said she believed in Guzman more than in the government.

It was the latest in an odd series of encomiums for Guzman, who was included this year on the Forbes list of the world's richest people, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement saying three of Guzman's alleged associates had been hit with sanctions under the drug Kingpin Act, which prohibits people in the U.S. from conducting businesses with them and freezes their U.S. assets. The two Mexican men and a Colombian allegedly aided Guzman's trafficking operations.

The statement quoted Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, as saying the move "marks the fourth time in the past year that OFAC has targeted and exposed the support structures of the organization led by Chapo Guzman, the world's most powerful drug trafficker."

Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 in a laundry truck and has a $7 million bounty on his head, has long been recognized as Mexico's most powerful drug capo. Authorities say his Sinaloa cartel has recently been expanding abroad, building international operations in Central and South America and the Pacific.

Del Castillo, who played a female drug trafficker in the TV series "La Reina del Sur" ("Queen of the South"), offered grudging praise for Guzman in a posting Tuesday on the social media site Twextra, linked to her Twitter account.

"Today, I believe more in El Chapo Guzman than in the governments who hide truths from me," she wrote.

The actress did not specify whether she was referring to the Mexican government, or what she meant when she accused "governments" of "hiding the cures for cancer, AIDS, etc. for their own benefit and enrichment."

Del Castillo's publicist, Marianne Sauvage, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the actress wrote the posting, and that the account belonged to Del Castillo.

The 800-word posting ended with an impassioned plea to Guzman:"Mr. Chapo, wouldn't it be great if you started trafficking with positive things? With cures for diseases, with food for street children, with alcohol for old people's homes so they spend their final days doing whatever they like, trafficking with corrupt politicians and not with women and children who wind up as slaves?"

"Go ahead, dare to, sir, you would be the hero of heroes, let's traffick with love, you know how," the message concluded.

Also Tuesday, Mexican authorities said they had seized 32.6 metric tons of a precursor chemical used to make methamphetamines at the Pacific coast port of Manzanillo.

Mexico's navy said the chemical methylamine came in a shipment from China, but did not say whether Manzanillo was the final destination of the shipment. Mexico seized almost 675 metric tons of the chemical at sea ports in December alone, all of which was destined for Guatemala.

Experts say that when another chemical is added, methylamine can yield its weight in uncut meth.

Also Tuesday, federal police reported they had defused a car bomb left outside the state detectives' agency offices in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

After detectives reported the car smelled of gasoline, specially equipped federal officers opened the trunk and found 10 sticks of explosives, two jugs of gasoline, wires, a cellphone and what appeared to be detonating devices.

There was no immediate information on who left the car bomb.

Tamaulipas has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels, and the gangs have attacked police and police offices with car bombs in the past.

Thanks to Adriana Gomez Licon

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