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Following ‘El Chapo’s’ extradition, U.S. prosecutors now target rival

February 10, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Following ‘El Chapo’s’ extradition, U.S. prosecutors now target rival

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As infamous drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman now behind bars in New York after he was extradited from Mexico in January, North Dakota federal prosecutors are planning to bring his one-time arch-rival, Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha to face charges in the U.S.

In court records unsealed Tuesday, authorities said that Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha was a top lieutenant for the Arellano Felix cartel, which trafficked large quantities of cocaine, pot, and other drugs into the U.S. fought against the Sinaloa cartel led by Guzman, who was once the most wanted man in the world for control of the Tijuana border crossing.

Sillas-Rocha fought a brutal turf war against the Sinaloa cartel led by Guzman, who was once the most wanted man in the world for control of the Tijuana border crossing.

.Authorities have also referred to Sillas-Rocha as a prolific hit man guilty of killing 20 to 30 people a month during the cartel’s reign in Tijuana, The Associated Press reported.

Sillas-Rocha was arrested in Mexico six years ago, but his federal case in the U.S. had remained sealed until this week. Tim Heaphy, former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said it’s common to seal such cases to conserve an investigation and protect witnesses. Those fears tend to fade when a defendant remains in custody for a long time.

U.S. prosecutors seek the extradition of Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha, the one-time arch rival of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to the U.S.

Sillas-Rocha, known as “Ruedas,” or “Wheels,” has been charged with three counts, which include conspiracy to commit murder for a continuing criminal organization. He has been combatting extradition to North Dakota, where federal officials began gathering incriminating evidence on the Arellano Felix cartel ten years ago after one of its members murdered a Minnesota man over a drug debt. Sillas-Rocha was arrested in Mexico in 2011.

The case ended up in North Dakota after Jorge “Sneaky” Arandas, an Arellano Felix associate, set up shop in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. Authorities say Arandas organized the killing of Lee Avila in June 2005 for failing to pay for five pounds of meth that Arandas received from Sillas-Rocha. Arandas told police he feared that he would be murdered for not paying Sillas-Rocha, so he had Avila killed.

The indictment filed against Sillas-Rocha in 2011 said that in addition to drug trafficking, Sillas-Rocha was involved supervising crews that “participated in murders, attempted murders, kidnapping, human trafficking, public corruption of government officials, money laundering and other illegal conduct” in order to make money for the organization, El Debate reported.

‘El Chapo’ was extradited to Brooklyn to face a 17-count criminal indictment

The document alleges Juan Francisco Sillas-Rocha had attempted to arrange the murder of two California residents.

He offered the San Diego-based Logan Heights street gang $25,000 to kill them and paid them $4,000 in advance. When the gang couldn’t locate his targets, Sillas-Rocha increased his offer to $50,000 if the killings could be carried out quickly. He later ordered another man to murder an entire family inside their home.

Mexican authorities say Sillas-Rocha was responsible for the 2010 abduction of three female family members of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who was at the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel alongside Guzman. Sillas-Rocha reportedly was retaliating for the disappearance of his sister.

Heaphy said he believes Mexican authorities wanted the extradition of Guzman carried out before Trump took office so it could be “an Obama victory, not a Trump victory.” He said the extradition process would likely grow more challenging under Trump, who has riled Mexicans with his pledge to build a wall and deport people living illegally in the U.S.

“I worry about the potentially acrimonious relationship between our new executive and the Mexican government,” Heaphy stated. “Extradition is one of the few chips that they have to use in this game of international relations.”

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