By Dolia Estevez for Forbes
Mexican drug lord Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán can now add murder to the long list of drug-related crimes he is accused of in the U.S. A 21-count indictment unsealed in the Eastern District of New York on September 25 alleges that Sinaloa Cartel leaders El Chapo Guzmán and Ismael El Mayo Zambada employed “sicarios,” or hitmen, to carry out “hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings, assassinations and acts of torture.”
Considered the most powerful kingpin in the world before his arrest earlier this year in Mexico, El Chapo was the leader of what the indictment describes as the “largest drug trafficking organization in the world.” Zambada was El Chapo’s trusted right-hand man. U.S. law enforcement believe Zambada has succeded El Chapo as head of the criminal organization. Zambada is thought to be hiding in the mountains of Sinaloa, his home state on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
The 48-page indictment alleges that Guzmán and Zambada conspired to “intentionally kill” members of Mexican law enforcement, military personnel and public officials. Among the people whose killings they are charged to have ordered are:
Roberto Velasco Bravo, a commander with Mexico’s now-defunct Ministry of Public Security in charge of the organized crime investigation unit, who was gunned down by hit men in 2008 in Tepito, one of Mexico City’s most violent and drug-infested neighborhoods.
Rafael Ramírez Jaime, the chief of the arrest division with the State of Mexico’s Attorney General Office, who was executed by hitmen in 2008 in his home in Tlalnepantla, a municipality of the state of Mexico, north of Mexico City.
Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes was killed by a dozen hitmen in 2004 in the parking lot of a cinema in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. He was shot 500 times. Rodolfo was the youngest brother of the legendary Amado Carrillo Fuentes, better known as the Lord of the Skies. The older Carrillo Fuentes was the head of the Carrillo Fuentes cartel until he died in 1997 when he was undergoing facial plastic surgery and liposuction. The execution of Amado’s brother triggered a bloody war between the Carillo Fuentes and Sinaloa cartels.
The indictment alleges that Guzmán and Zambada were also behind the assassinations of Raul LNU, known as “Robachivas,” and Julio Beltrán, presumably Mexican drug criminals.
Guzmán and Zambada have not been charged in Mexico for the alleged murderers of these individuals.
Additionally, Guzmán and Zambada are charged with attempted murder of two individuals identified as John Doe #1 and #2, and with the murders of John Doe #3 to #8. While the identities of these individuals are known to the grand jury, they are classified in the indictment.
They are also accused of murder conspiracy and attempted murder of members of the Beltrán, Carrillo Fuentes, Zeta and Felix Arrellano criminal syndicates.
The indictment alleges that through “a network of corrupt police and political contacts” the Sinaloa Cartel “directed a large scale narcotics transportation network involving the use of land, air and sea transportation assets, shipping multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America, through Central America and Mexico, and finally into the U.S.”
The sale of these drugs in the U.S., it goes on, generated billions of dollars in profits, which were then laundered back to Mexico. “The drug money was often transported from the U.S. to Mexico in vehicles containing hidden compartments and through other clandestine means.”
The new indictment replaced one unsealed by the same court in 2009 against Guzmán, Zambada, his son Jesús El Vicentillo Zambada, and three Mexican drugs lords: Arturo Beltrán Leyva (killed in 2009), his brother Hector Beltrán Leyva (arrested in Mexico) and Ignacio Coronel (killed in 2010). El Vicentillo Zambada was extradited to the U.S. in 2010 and is currently collaborating with U.S. law enforcement against the Sinaloa leaders, including his father.
Despite facing federal charges in at least seven U.S. jurisdictions, Washington has not requested El Chapo’s extradition. Mexico has strongly rejected the idea of sending Guzmán to the U.S. He is currently behind bars in a high-security prison outside Mexico City.
The U.S. has not requested Zambada’s extradition either. Yet the new indictment strengthens Washington’s hand to ask for his detention for the purpose of extradition. If Mexico accepts and hands him over to the U.S., New York would most likely be the first to try him given these new murder charges.