El Chapo’s sons face new fentanyl charges

Federal officials on Friday announced a wave of indictments against the four sons of the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, saying the men ran their jailed father’s empire and were responsible for moving vast amounts of fentanyl into and out of the United States.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said at a news conference in Washington that in addition to the four sons – collectively known as Los Chapitos – federal indictments in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington had charged more than two dozen other people in what he described as a global operation. in the production and distribution of fentanyl, led by the Sinaloa drug cartel. El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, has led the organization for years and is serving a life sentence in the United States after his conviction in Brooklyn in 2019.

Mr. Garland said the defendants named in the five separate indictments included suppliers in China who sold so-called precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of fentanyl; a broker based in Guatemala who bought the chemicals on behalf of Chapitos; operators of clandestine fentanyl labs in Mexico; and an arms supplier who provided the cartel with weapons smuggled into Mexico from the United States.

The indictments, taken together, provided a panoramic view of how fentanyl was created, transported and ultimately sold on the street in cities from New York to Nashville to Los Angeles. The indictments note that the fentanyl business has earned the cartel millions of dollars while causing up to 200 deaths in the United States each day.

“The Department of Justice is attacking every aspect of the cartel’s operations,” Mr. Garland said.

The charges also added flavor to the violence and terror that has ravaged Mexico for years and fueled the Sinaloa cartel’s fentanyl business. The indictments say killers working for Mr. Guzman’s sons killed law enforcement officers, tortured rivals with electric shocks, stuffed hot peppers into the wounds of some of their victims and even fed on others, both dead and live – your pet tigers.

Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said at the press conference that the sons inherited their father’s “global drug trafficking empire” and transformed it by pioneering a new product.

“They made it more ruthless, more violent, more deadly — and they used it to distribute a new poison, fentanyl,” Ms. Milgram said.

A lawyer for the four sons declined to comment on the new allegations.

The new charges come at a time of high tension between U.S. and Mexican officials over their strained law enforcement relationship — and in particular the question of who is to blame for the fentanyl scourge.

Ms. Milgram lashed out in February at the Mexican government, complaining that officials there had not offered help to American agents working on cases involving Mexican fentanyl. Within weeks, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador fired back with baseless claims that his country had nothing to do with drugs.

“We don’t manufacture fentanyl here,” he said.

At his press conference, Mr. Garland said bluntly: “The Sinaloa cartel is largely responsible for the influx of fentanyl into the United States over the past eight years.”

He credited the Mexican government for cooperating with the U.S. effort, saying Justice Department officials met in Washington on Thursday with Mexico’s defense and homeland security secretaries, attorney general and foreign secretary.

The charges unsealed on Friday were not the first charges brought against Mr. Guzmán’s sons. Like their father, who was charged in seven cases in seven cities before his eventual sentencing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, they now face multiple charges in multiple jurisdictions.

One of the sons, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, faced charges along with his brother Joaquin Guzman Lopez unsealed in Federal District Court in Washington in 2019, days after their father was found guilty. Long known as the least accomplished of Mr. Guzmán’s children, Ovidio Guzmán López, were arrested by Mexican authorities in January in Culiacan, a northwestern city that has for decades served as the main base of the Sinaloa cartel.

Two of Mr. Guzman’s other sons by another wife — Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar and Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar — were named Friday in two separate indictments in Chicago and Manhattan. The Chicago case also included Joaquín Guzmán López as a defendant.

Ivan already faced charges filed in 2014 in San Diego, and Jesus Alfredo was charged in 2015 in Chicago. Both remain at large in Mexico, as does Joaquin.

The sons took control of a fraction of their father’s fractured empire after he was extradited to the United States in 2017, the day before Donald J. Trump to take office. Often derided in the Mexican news media as playboys and unworthy heirs to the family patriarch, they nonetheless created a thriving fentanyl trade, U.S. law enforcement officials say, as they navigated treacherous relationships with other top cartel figures, including the brother of Mr. n Guzman, Aurelio, and his longtime business partner, Ismael Zambada Garcia.

Mr. Guzman’s trial, which dragged on for three months, exposed the corruption at the heart of the Sinaloa cartel, as witnesses described how his killers burned people with irons and burned them alive in bonfires.

The new allegations painted Mr. Guzmán’s sons in a similar light.

They accused Ivan of telling associates that the cartel wanted to “flood the United States with fentanyl to provide ‘junkie streets,'” and noted that the cartel sometimes tested its product on bound captives.

The indictments also said killers loyal to the sons went to great lengths to prevent their arrests, “including engaging the Mexican military in firefights, killing soldiers and burning vehicles to create obstacles.”

“We have targeted the Sinaloa cartel and the global web of death that feeds it,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference on Friday.

Glen Thrush contributed reporting.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *