‘El Chapo’ Guzman makes first court appearance in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors plan on calling dozens of high-level witnesses in the case against Mexican kingpin Joaquin ‘EL Chapo’ Guzman, Justice Department officials have revealed.
The Mexican drug boss made his first appearance in a U.S. courtroom under heavy security on where he faces charges listed in a 17-count indictment accusing him of overseeing a drug trafficking criminal empire after he was suddenly extradited from Mexico, Thursday.
As he held his unshackled hands behind his back, Guzman, looked like he was in a daze, as he quietly pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday to charges including drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder.
El Chapo, who is in his 50s, was ordered to remain in custody without bail in a specialized Manhattan jail unit where other high-risk inmates – including Mafia boss John Gotti and several close partners of Osama bin Laden – spent their time while waiting for trial.
Prosecutors maintained to have built an ironclad case against ‘El Chapo’ and will seek life-in-prison for the leader of the Sinaloa cartel leader, considered the largest and most powerful transnational drug trafficking organization in the world.
A “Memorandum of Law in Support of Pretrial Detention,” filed in the Eastern District of New York, obtained by JammedUp News outlines the case prosecutors intend to present against ‘El Chapo,’ which will include a list consisting of dozens of cooperating informants who will testify against the infamous drug lord and his Sinaloa Federation, the cartel he helped build into a billion-dollar criminal enterprise.
When questioned, Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn’s Eastern District, revealed that prosecutors had a list of over 40 witnesses who have had personal dealings and face-to-face encounters with ‘El Chapo.’
“We can’t for obvious reasons describe the witnesses. We can say that the caliber of witnesses are strong and great, “ Capers told reporters.
“They will provide, should there be a trial, a very detailed, intricate look inside the inner workings of the organization,” the U.S. Attorney added
Among those expected to testify includes top level Colombian drug traffickers, former Sinaloa cartel associates, even Sean Penn could be called to testify about his Oct.2015 encounter, during a meeting with the drug lord in the mountains of Sinaloa while he still remained on the run following his second prison escape, the New York Post reported.
“Guzman is the most notorious drug trafficker in the world,” the filing stated, before detailing the history of the rise of the billion-dollar modern drug enterprise in the U.S.
-El Chapo’s ambitious and bloody rise
During the 1980s, the drug trade in New York and Miami was dominated by Colombian drug cartels, including Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, which “relied on Mexican traffickers, who were long time smugglers of marijuana and heroin into the U.S., to transport their cocaine shipments north from Mexico into the U.S.”
The court memorandum details how “Guzman set himself apart from other Mexican transporters with his efficiency in transporting the drugs into the U.S. and returning the proceeds to the Colombians in record time. The effectiveness earned him the nickname ‘El Rapido’ (the fast one).”
El Chapo’s reputation quickly rose, and he was able to directly negotiate with members of the Colombian cartels for higher fees. “By the late 1980s, as Guzman’s wealth grew, so did his power within Mexico,” the document continues.
Guzman’s “growing prowess” strengthened his relationship with other prominent Mexican drug lords. Among them: the Beltran Leyva Brothers, Ignacio Coronel Villareal, Vicente Carillo Fuentes, and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The court document also states: “An alliance between Guzman and Zambada led to a bloody battle with drug trafficking organization run by the Arellano-Felix brothers for control of the Tijuana-area.
The conflict resulted in the 1993 killing of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo during a barrage of gunfire at an airport parking lot in Guadalajara.”
Ocampo was mistaken for Guzman when hitmen opened fire on his vehicle.
The murder of the Catholic Cardinal generated outrage throughout the country and led Mexican authorities to spearhead a massive manhunt for Guzman, who managed to evade capture until his arrest in Guatemala in 1993.
“While in prison, Guzman was able to run his organization with the help of his brother, the document adds. “In 2001, Guzman famously escaped in a laundry cart with the assistance of prison officials who he corrupted.”
During the 2000s, with the enforcement of extradition laws in Colombia, “the Colombians started to abandon distribution networks in the U.S. and instead settled for creating partnerships with Mexican traffickers, who were permitted to invest in cocaine shipments. Furthermore, the Mexican traffickers took on an integral role in moving cocaine from Colombia to the U.S.”
Mexican drug traffickers took over distribution hubs in U.S. cities left by the Colombians and “supported money laundering operations that delivered billions in illegal profits generated from the cocaine sales in the U.S.”
A newfound wealth reportedly permitted Guzman to increase the power and influence of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico while extending his operations to Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Panama. “The Colombians and Mexicans invested in the building of semi-submersible submarines which were capable of transporting up to six tons of cocaine for water-based trafficking.
Guzman soon embedded Sinaloa Cartel members in South American countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela.”
In the 2000s, the growing ingenuity and resourcefulness of Guzman’s criminal group “led the introduction of meth into the flow of drugs heading north to the U.S. Guzman by establishing sources of supply for the precursor chemicals for the production of meth in Africa and Asian countries.”
Furthermore, Guzman was able to secure the success of his criminal cartel through a network of “corrupt officials at every level of government who were paid cash bribes to ensure that he and the Cartel were free to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America into the U.S.”
Court documents also allege that the bribes assured that once the cocaine arrived safely in Mexico, it was “escorted by law enforcement to the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Prosecutors state Guzman’s primary tactic of maintaining control was through violent force and intimidation.” The document declares that El Chapo “wielded violence to punish disloyalty and enforce discipline… He deployed hit men and who carried thousands of murders, assaults, and kidnappings to silence witnesses and members of law enforcement.”
In the early 2000s, Guzman embarked on a war of conquest to take over drug plazas, which are border smuggling corridors into the U.S.
He first challenged the Gulf Cartel for control of their stronghold of Nuevo Laredo. However, the Gulf cartel allied with Los Zetas, at the time their enforcement wing consisting of former members of the Mexican military special forces, proved to be a tall order for Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.
By the mid-2000s, ‘El Chapo’ Guzman abandoned his effort to take over the Nuevo Laredo and set his sights on the border city of Ciudad Juarez.
Located just across El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez is considered the crown jewel of drug trafficking, the drug lord led the Sinaloa Cartel into a brutal war with Vicente Carillo Fuentes, who led the Juarez Cartel following the death of his brother, legendary drug trafficker Amado Carillo Fuentes, known as “El Señor de Los Cielos” or Lord of the Skies.
The horrific violence generated by the conflict between the two criminal organizations earned Juarez the title “murder capital of the world.”
Cooperating witnesses line up against ‘El Chapo’
According to court documents, “the government will rely on the testimony of a large group of cooperating witnesses, including dozens who have had face-to-face negotiations with Guzman, including Colombian cartel leaders, who are expected to testify concerning their multi-ton cocaine shipments to Guzman.”
Justice Department officials say the cooperating witnesses allegedly have detailed knowledge on Guzman’s distribution chain from South America to the U.S. Others are expected to provide testimony regarding cocaine-filled airplanes landing on clandestine runways, the use of tanker fuel trucks to smuggle cocaine, and other schemes used to transport cocaine into the U.S.
Witness testimony will also shed light on Guzman’s payment of bribes to corrupt “politicians and members of law enforcement.”
Prosecutors intend to call “one witness who worked as one of Guzman’s sicarios or assassins during the war with Vicente Carillo Fuentes. The hitman detail how he carried out brutal acts of violence, which includes how he and other sicarios utilized a house of horrors specially outfitted for murdering victims.
“The house had plastic sheets over the walls to catch blood and a drain in the floor to facilitate the draining of blood,” prosecutors wrote.
“The Government intends to produce evidence derived from the seizure in Texas of a gun shipment linked to ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, which contained numerous AK-47s and .50mm long rifles,” the document further notes.
Moreover, United States-based distributors are expected to testify about the Sinaloa Cartel’s distribution hubs,” the memorandum stated.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s Office has yet to disclose the witness list, legal experts told JammedUp News they anticipated the testimony of Pedro and Margarito Flores, the Chicago-area twins who controlled the Sinaloa Cartel’s distribution in the United States.
The Flores twins’ cooperation with federal authorities, led to one of the most significant indictments in Chicago’s history against ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’ his longtime partner ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, other senior figures within the Sinaloa cartel leadership, along with the head of a rival cartel and dozens of drug wholesalers and couriers from Chicago to Mexico.
The brothers had personal dealings with Guzman and could provide details on the cartel’s logistical operations in the U.S.
According to the Chicago Tribune, ‘El Chapo’ even saved the life of one of the Flores twins by intervening in a dispute which resulted in Margarito Flores kidnapping by a Sinaloa cartel operative in Mexico over a dispute over a drug debt.
Pedro Flores is one of the few cooperating witnesses to ever to record Guzman on a conversation discussing the sale of a shipment of heroin, which took place back on November 15th, 2008.
“Guzman’s guilt will be proven through recorded conversations during which he discusses drug transactions,” Prosecutors wrote in court filings.
If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison and Justice Dept. prosecutors are also seeking the forfeiture $14 billion dollar