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Justice Department official hails cooperation of top Sinaloa cartel figure

January 27, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Justice Department official hails cooperation of top Sinaloa cartel figure Vincente Zambada Niembla after his 2009 arrest near Mexico City

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WASHINGTON- A top official with the U.S. Justice Department is hailing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) success in infiltrating Mexican drug cartels with the help of informants.

Intelligence gathered from high-level cooperating witnesses has been the critical component that has helped authorities in the U.S. and Mexico capture some of the most wanted narco-traffickers on both sides of the border, including kingpins Joaquin El Chapo Guzman and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

According to Proceso, a senior official at the U.S. Dept. of Justice speaking on the condition anonymity, told the Mexican newspaper how the DEA “has managed to recruit ‘hundreds’ of undercover informants within the ranks of Mexican drug trafficking organizations.”

Such was the case of Vicente Zambada Niebla, known as “El Vicentillo,” who is the former top logistics operator for the Sinaloa cartel and the highest-ranking drug trafficker within the organization ever to cooperate with U.S. authorities.

Information provided by Zambada Niebla led to the arrests of some of the top drug cartel figures.

“In the past we did not have much success with recruiting informants, they were afraid or offered limited cooperation. However, that all changed after the capture and extradition of Zambada Niebla back on February 18, 2010,” said the official.

“El Vicentillo,” who is the son of Ismael El Mayo Zambada, the longtime leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in March 2009 in Mexico City by the Mexican military. The official reveled how after Zambada Niebla’s extradition to the U.S. he expanded his cooperation with the DEA.

“Before Zambada Niebla’s arrest, he cooperated with the DEA, but when he got to Chicago, we were surprised at his willingness to provide information on the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel, and its rivals,” the official states.

In 2013, “El Vicentillo” testified how his father helped smuggle multi-ton quantities of cocaine and heroin to the U.S.

The Justice Department also attributed the first capture of Chapo Guzman back on Feb 2014 to intelligence provided by Zambada Niebla.

“He gave us vital information that was key to understanding the tactical moves of Chapo and his bodyguards. Zambada Niebla gave a list with the names of the people closest to the boss, and it helped us set up surveillance operations and also gave us the ability to intercept phone calls and other methods of communication used by the drug boss.

Zambada Niebla is scheduled to be sentenced in the Federal Court for the Northern District of Chicago later this year when he is expected to receive no more than 15 years in prison in exchange for helping U.S. authorities.

The DOJ official revealed that the “protected witness” is currently an “active” source of valuable information and has even collaborated in efforts to capture his father, “El Mayo” Zambada.

“You can believe or not, but in organized crime, loyalties are not a very respected credo. On two recent occasions, both times in the mountains of Durango we came very close to catching El Mayo,” the official revealed.

He explained how high ranking informants find it more “profitable to cooperate with the US authorities. Once extradited, they will betray all their former cronies in exchange for reduced prison sentences.”

“Criminals like El Vicentillo never ceased to be in contact with people from drug trafficking in Mexico. Even as protected witnesses we help and encourage them to keep those lines of communication open, it suits us,” he admits.

Intelligence provided by Zambada Niebla has served to capture other top ranking capos besides El Chapo. The official refused to give the names of traffickers caught, saying “It’s classified information.”

“Ask the authorities in Mexico who helped with information to capture Carrillo Fuentes, and the other high-profile arrests,” the official said.

He added, “All you have to do is check the names of those detained in Mexico and the United States after the capture of El Chapo was in 2014, especially among rival groups of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Records show that Zambada-Niebla’s cooperation helped lead to the arrests of leading cartel figures including Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (Juarez Cartel), Hector Beltran-Leyva (Beltran Leyva Cartel), Omar Trevino Morales (Loa Zetas) and Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, the young Gulf Cartel leader nabbed while shopping in Texas.
“It’s a level of unprecedented intelligence sharing between U.S. and Mexican authorities needed that will lead to further successes against Mexican drug trafficking organizations thanks to informants and protected witnesses,” he concludes.

The Justice Department considers information gathered from the cooperation agreements of Zambada-Niebla and Pedro and Margarito Flores, twin brothers from Chicago who controlled distribution for the Sinaloa Cartel, to be the most significant successes in the international fight against drug trafficking.


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