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Wiretaps, aides led to Mexican drug lord’s arrest

First Published Feb 24 2014 08:39AM      Last Updated Feb 24 2014 03:38 pm

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The senior law enforcement official said the Mexican marines deserve credit for taking Guzman alive and without either side firing a shot.

"We never anticipated, ever, that he would be taken alive," the official said.

It is not yet clear what will happen next to Guzman, except that he will be the focus of a lengthy and complicated legal process to decide whether Mexico or the U.S. gets to try him first.

In Mexico, he is likely to face a host of charges related to his role as head of the Sinaloa cartel, which is believed to sell cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine in some 54 countries.



Grand juries in at least seven U.S. federal district courts, including Chicago, San Diego, New York and Texas, have already issued indictments for Guzman on a variety of charges, ranging from smuggling cocaine and heroin to participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise involving murder and racketeering.

Federal officials in Chicago were among the first to say they wanted to try Guzman. On Sunday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Tiscione in Brooklyn became the second. In an email Sunday, Tiscione said his office would also be seeking extradition but it would be up to Washington to make the final call.

A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because it’s a matter of sensitive diplomatic discussions, said decisions regarding extradition have not been made.

When Guzman was finally in handcuffs, the man who eluded Mexican authorities for more than a decade looked pudgy, bowed and middle-aged in a white button-down shirt and beltless black jeans.

Now 56, he had been on the run since escaping from prison in 2001 in a laundry truck. During those 13 years, Guzman was rumored to live everywhere from Argentina to Mexico’s "Golden Triangle," a mountainous, marijuana-growing region straddling the northern states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua.

Under his leadership, the Sinaloa Cartel grew deadlier and more powerful, taking over much of the lucrative trafficking routes along the U.S. border.

His undoing started late last year as authorities on both sides of the border arrested people close to Guzman and one of his two top associates, Ismael "Mayo" Zambada.

This month federal forces began sweeping through Culiacan, capital of the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa. They closed streets, raided houses, seized automatic weapons, drugs and money, and arrested a series of men that Mexican officials carefully described to reporters as top officials for Zambada.

On Feb. 13, a man known as "19," whom officials called the new chief of assassin for Zambada, was arrested with two other men on the highway to Mazatlan.

Four days later, a man described as a member of the Sinaloa cartel’s upper ranks was seized along with 4,000 hollowed-out cucumbers and bananas stuffed with cocaine. In the middle of last week, a 43-year-old known by the nickname "20" and described as Zambada’s chief of security, was arrested transporting more cocaine-stuffed produce.

By the middle of the week at least 10 Sinaloa henchmen had been seized.

The final strike came when marines closed the beachside road in front of the Miramar condominiums, a 10-story, pearl-colored building with white balconies overlooking the Pacific and a small pool in front. Smashing down the door of an austerely decorated fourth-floor condo, they seized Guzman a few minutes after the sun rose.

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Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell reported this story from Washington and Adriana Gomez Licon reported in Culiacan. AP writers Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

 

 

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