Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Trial Exposes Odd Ties in Mexico Drug War

BY JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA for The Wall Street Journal
addendum by Chivis for Borderland Beat

When a top Mexican or Colombian drug lord is captured, events normally go something like this: He gets extradited to the U.S. and makes a closed-door deal with prosecutors to give information on the drugs trade while getting a reduced sentence in return. The public finds out little to nothing of the details.

The upcoming Chicago trial of the son of one of Mexico's top drug lords has broken all the rules. This time, Jesús Zambada Niebla is going mano a mano with U.S. prosecutors, with both sides trading allegations that have raised eyebrows across the U.S.-Mexico borderIn pre-trial motions, Mr. Zambada alleges the U.S. government lets the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful criminal organization, to import tons of illegal drugs into the U.S. in exchange for information on other cartels.

Mr. Zambada, 36 years old, is no ordinary accuser: He is the son of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the co-head of the Sinaloa cartel alongside Mexico's most famous trafficker, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán.

The U.S. government has flatly denied the claims. But it has acknowledged in court filings that it received information for years from a close associate of the two Sinaloa cartel chieThe pretrial wrangling provides a rare glimpse of both the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel and the complex and ambiguous relationships that drug traffickers and law-enforcement agents have with the informants who act as the couriers between the two camps.

Mr. Zambada's allegations come at a time when doubts are growing about the U.S.'s role in Mexico's drug war as well as Mexican President Felipe Calderón strategy in the conflict which has claimed more than 46,000 lives in the last five years.

Jesús Zambada was arrested in Mexico in early 2009, after a controversial meeting with U.S. law enforcement agents at a Sheraton Hotel next to the U.S. embassy in downtown Mexico City. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2010. Mr. Zambada's federal trial in Chicago is set to begin sometime this year. Mr. Zambada's claims were made as part of his legal defense in pretrial legal filings reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Zambada doesn't deny drug trafficking. Rather, he says he did so with the permission of U.S. drug-enforcement agents and was promised immunity as part of an agreement with the U.S. government.Both Mr. Zambada's defense lawyers and U.S. prosecutors declined to comment. Mr. Guzmán and Ismael Zambada are fugitives.

So far, the Chicago court filings have provided startling revelations. U.S. officials as well as Mr. Zambada, for instance, say that one of the Sinaloa cartel's top officials has been a U.S. informant for years.

The alleged informant, Humberto Loya, a Mexican lawyer, has long been a top confidant of Mr. Guzmán and Ismael Zambada, the Sinaloa cartel chiefs, according to sworn affidavits. Mr. Loya's location is unknown. A U.S. federal indictment of Mr. Loya and other top Sinaloa cartel capos in 1995 described Mr. Loya's alleged role in paying off Mexican government officials and altering judicial documents to protect the cartel.
"El Mayo" Zambada on left and "El Chapo" Guzman on right  
 Once, according to the indictment, Mr. Loya allegedly paid a Mexican police official $1 million to free Mr. Guzmán's brother from custody.

In 2000, Mr. Loya agreed to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement officials by providing information on drug trafficking operations of rival cartels, according to a pretrial court filings submitted by prosecutors.

A different Drug Enforcement Administration agent said that Mr. Loya gave the tip that led to Mexico's largest cocaine bust—the 2007 seizure of 23 tons of cocaine belonging to the rival Juarez cartel, according to an affidavit submitted by Patrick Hearn, a Washington-based U.S. prosecutor.
In 2008, the DEA's Mexico City chief David Gaddis recommended that the U.S. drop Mr. Loya's 1995 indictment. Prosecutors followed his recommendation.
"It was the only time I had ever been involved in asking for a dismissal of an indictment against a cooperating defendant," wrote DEA agent, Manuel Castañón, in an affidavit.
Mr. Loya's alleged role is central to Jesús Zambada's defense. Mr. Zambada's lawyers argue that the U.S. provided their client and top Sinaloa cartel figures with immunity in exchange for information through Mr. Loya from "at least" 2004.
"Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel under the leadership of [Mr. Zambada's] father, Ismael Zambada and "Chapo" Guzmán were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs ... into ... the United States and were protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution in return for providing information against rival cartels," Mr. Zambada's lawyers wrote. "Indeed the Unites States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel."
U.S. prosecutors reject the claims as "simply untrue."
They also noted that Mr. Guzmán and Ismael Zambada have been indicted in absentia several times, and both have been placed on high priority "kingpin" lists by the U.S. government. Jesús Zambada himself was also indicted in 2003.

Over the years, many top drug traffickers, especially from Colombia, have worked out agreements with U.S. prosecutors to turn themselves in and provide information in exchange for a reduced sentence. Such deals, however, are complicated. In most successful cases, the trafficker chooses a U.S. lawyer, often a former prosecutor who is trusted by current prosecutors. After numerous meetings, often in third countries, both sides reach a deal. It is rare for there to be a trial.

In an affidavit, Mr. Castañón, the DEA agent, wrote that Mr. Guzmán, the drug lord, asked Mr. Loya in 2009 to set up the meeting in Mexico City between Mr. Zambada and the DEA at the behest of Mr. Zambada's father, Ismael Zambada. The elder Zambada wanted his son out of the business, Mr. Hearn, the prosecutor, wrote. In exchange, he said, Jesús Zambada would cooperate with the U.S. government.

In Chicago, where in 2009 he was again indicted for drug trafficking after his extradition to the U.S., Mr. Zambada is also accused of trying to obtain rocket-propelled grenade launchers and bazookas, which U.S. officials allege were to be used on attacks on U.S. and Mexican government installations. "I want to blow things up," Mr. Zambada said, according to testimony in a court filling from another confidential informant.

The Department of Justice approved an initial meeting between the DEA and Mr. Zambada which was supposed to take place on March 17, 2009, the U.S. government says. Mr. Zambada drove to Mexico City to meet with DEA agents who flew in from out of town.

Vicente being extradited to the United States

What happened at the meeting is in dispute. But the court filings reflect that both sides agree things went awry and the DEA station chief canceled the meeting at the last minute.Mr. Castañón, the DEA agent, wrote in his affidavit that the agents met with Mr. Loya at the Sheraton Hotel next door to the U.S. embassy to tell him the meeting was off. But Mr. Loya, who was "visibly nervous," returned to the hotel shortly after with Jesus Zambada, surprising the agents.

Mr. Castañón wrote in his affidavit that he told Mr. Zambada he couldn't make any promises, but discussed future cooperation. Mr. Zambada's defense attorneys assert that the agents told him they would quash the Washington indictment in exchange for more information against rival cartels.

The next morning, Jesús Zambada and five bodyguards were arrested by Mexican army troops, who, an army spokesman said, responded to anonymous complaints from neighbors in one of Mexico City's toniest neighborhoods about the presence of armed men in vehicles.

Mr. Zambada is now being held in solitary confinement in a four-foot-by-six foot cell in a maximum security prison near Detroit, his lawyers said in a court filing.

Addendum of related information:

Subsequent filing of November 10,  2011 depicting an overview of the case including motion to dismiss on grounds of conferred immunity.

U.S. informant rare interview sharing information on cartel activity

Addendum of related information:

Unhappy with conditions, or planning an escape?

Resulting from Zambadas numerous complaints of his US accommodations,  Zambada was provided new diggs  but found those worse.

According to the letter on file in federal court, attorney George Santangelo writes that the inmate is allowed outdoor exercise but without cold weather clothing; Zambada-Niebla's cell is only four by six feet in size; he does not receive mail from his attorney or family and his mail is not going out. Calls are limited and he lives in total isolation, according to the lawyer, who says his client's haircut was even delayed by three weeks, all the result of Zambada-Niebla being punished for complaining about his conditions at the MCC in Chicago.

Note: (video cuts off at end but the story is not compromised)

See video report here


  1. I do believe the U.S government will be willing to look the other way for good information. Remember Griselda Blanco, and Lucky Luciano just to mention a couple.

  2. Awwwwww poor baby couldnt get his hair cut on time...... I hope he rots in there mark my words this mamas boy is gonna be the nail on the coffen for cds

  3. Haha ahi esta su cartel DE LOS sapos.....como no pueden con la Contra pos pimento el k mug machitos.y q responds un mamador del CDs aver que excusa y mamada sale DE sus cds

  4. Dont start that sinaloa are a bunch of snitches in there war every thing is game.

  5. "This time, Jesús Zambada Niebla is going mano a mano with U.S. prosecutor"
    Yea Whatever. Hes going to say whatever he has to say as loud as he can and then it will all be over forever. They are going to Lock him up and throw away the key and everyone will forget him. His Upcoming trial will be his final useless stand. Its going to be a long, long, long prison stay and hopefully he will die there alone in a cold cell all by himself for all of the bad that he did and was part of.
    What went around , came around. Now its time to pay the piper!!LOLOL!!!!

  6. Wish his buddy Olie North was his CellMate

  7. (Mr. Zambada alleges the U.S. government lets the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful criminal organization, to import tons)

    I guess the imbecile forgets that he's no longer in Mexico, huh?
    El Hamby

  8. 6:06 no fuck that you must be ok with snitchin and if you did that kinda work then you would be one!Only a real man knows not to talk and take responsiblity for what he did and know it's all on him!Yea there's snitches everywhere but that shit doesnt make it ok for you to snitch!In prison snitchin aint a game do it so you can find out how you wont last an hour in there!

  9. January 7, 2012 7:56 PM Do you know how most of the people get arrested? Not to mention how many people give information once they get arrested.
    Have you ever been in jail?

  10. Isn't his name Vicente Zambada Niebla

  11. Look you don't know shit about wtf any of you are writing, the us is full of shit the fucking government is just as corrupt but smart enough to full you

  12. 1/7 7:56PM
    Dude shut the fuck up with your "real man" BS! When its your ass on the line trust me you'd sing like a canary fool! And get out here with your "you wouldn't last one hour in prison!" What a fucking loser! Real men do the right thing and stay out of prison..fuck nut!

  13. Look on the bright side..his dad wanted him out of the business and now he!

  14. There is a whole lot more to this. The whole plan is to reveal that the US did in fact give the Sinaloans right of way and if this can be proven, it could overturn all cases in the US against the CDS back dated to 2004. Will it happen? Probably not. Does it give Vicente leverage in his case? Absolutely.

    6:06 PM...They are a bunch of snitches. El Chapo snitches on everyone in rival cartels and in his own when they become a threat to his power (Mochomo and Nacho) or he has no more use for them (the Chihuahua plaza boss). And it is not respected in the criminal world. His bullshit is exactly why Mexico is in the shape it is in. You don't hear about Vicente Carrillo crying about conditions or unfair treatment. Why? Because he is Cartel de Juarez, that's why. They stand for each other and they do the time and take the bullet if need be.

  15. All of them are snitches when it comes to saving their own hide.They have a better life behind bars in the USA than in Mexic's pig pit jails..There is no loyalty behind bars. Heck I bet El Chapo is probaly enjoying the beaches of Miami or the Ski slopes in Colorado and controls his force with power. He is not in Mexico...Think big wigs I you was running and had all the smarts and money was no option you find a safe house away from others noses. Mexico you will not succeed till you get rid of your own garbage within your ranks.

  16. Yet the movimiento alterado and all them who suck this dudes balls claim in the corridos he will be out.

    First off why didn't los antrax; save him from his capture?

    They make the antrax seem like rambo in the corridos.


  17. How could u trust the dea in big shit like that. Come on now even they can probably retaliate against him.but its krazy how life is and chapo and mayo are gonna get outtae this one

  18. It all makes sense to me. Why Guzman's cartel is by far the least hit by the mexican gov, why Guzman's wife (who enjoys the riches from murder and drug trafficking) is allowed to come into the USA to deliver her baby while the US gov knew the entire time. And the US gov has a long long proven history of importing drugs into this country for whatever reason and pulling the wool of their largely ignorant population. Nope, none of this is news to me.

  19. January 8, 2012 9:37 AM You're right - the US government is as corrupt as any on the face of the earth. They are all liars and criminals.

  20. Antrax,the little kids gotta spend daddys money some way.I know,we,ll make a club,call it a scary name,get our pictures taken with AKs and AR15s,put them on FB,and run around in combats and 4x4s as if we are professional soldiers.And when shit pops off,we die,and get a snide song wrote about our sad ass,and every sad fucker will think it is so tragic.
    Get the fuck outta here.

  21. The rest of his life in prison, the trial is just for show,thanxs to dad. Anthrax? A bunch of ignorant rancheros with money playing soldier watch as the rivals start picking them off ,and the mexican army will rescue their dumbasses AGAIN! Corridos? Half of that shit is pure fantasy

  22. Want to take a great big bite out of government corruption?


  23. 10:47 so first you're saying that i would snitch when you're the one who's talking like they would and will so who are you trying to get loud and tough with!! And no when it's your ass on the line you keep your head up and take it!You're probably those guys who thought he was the shit with the little money he had and when in court starts crying and telling on your own brother!!

  24. to Dump the Drug Laws... you could not be more spot on. decriminalization would take all of the profits away. most of these guys would be back shining shoes within a year.

  25. it will be bullshit if the u.s. lets him go. he's proubly ordered dozens of murders, just like alot of drug bosses. he needs to be kept in jail for rest of his life.or throw his ass in the same cell with a rival cartel member so he gets his ass beat on a daily basis.

  26. There were articles in the Chicago Sun Times regarding testimony in the case of a hit man that VZN wanted assistance in killing witnesses. These two were incarcerated at the MCC in Chicago for a period of time.

  27. Man whats the score with using all the different fonts in the same story?Pick a decent font and stay with it.It is just irritating.Is that hard to do?NO.

  28. His name is Vicente, not Jesus, and that blk/white picture makes it look that his lips are glued shut hahahaha!

  29. My cuzin was locked up in that pen he said word is they waiting for his ass in general population so they can extort him if he dpnt pay a set amount of money per month hes gonna get big john if u get what im saying

  30. @604 FontyPants- On topic here with the rest of us. Don't need your graphic design input. Your expertise on with Vincente/CDS/DEA/USA is welcome.

  31. An old dog can always learn knew tricks.Stay on topic?

  32. 1/09 12:45PM,

    Yea okay...One, he's going to placed in protective custody "double door lock down" and isolated. He's not going to be placed in general population genius! Two, he will be doing is time in a Federal penitentiary, which a far different environment than a State prison. So tell your cousin he can keep his dick in his pants cause he's not going to carry on prison romance with this dude!

  33. @1/8 8:02PM,
    Wow! So, you think there's some kind of "brother code"..some form of honor among criminals! Are you serious? The fact is every capo the Mexican gov't has captured has cooperated and divulged all sorts of intel! And the jokers who have been extradicted to the US have done the same shit...pled out (cooperated) for a lower sentences. All that talk about "hold your head up" "take it like a man" lol pure bullshit! There is "no honor among thieves." And the same would apply to you! if you were facing the rest of your life in prison or given the choice to "snitch" for a significantly lower's a no brainer! Remember, when it's you vs a Gov't...your attorney is your only friend!

  34. 9:54 well i know what i know and i know just from what you say your a snitch and your weak so that's it!And Fuck the Attorney there actually your worst enemy but a snitch wouldnt know!!

  35. I hope he gets it in the shiter by Popeye from blood in blood out give me some chon.chon aint nothing for free in here lmfao

  36. January 10, 2012 9:54 AM You are totally right.

    January 10, 2012 2:07 PM Give it up already, you talked about this criminals like if they were honorable people.

  37. Do people need more proof?? Chapo and Mayo are straight up SNITCHES.Snitching on the Juarez Cartel and even there own people Flaco Salguiero,they tried to snitch el M10 and his brother el M11 out but that didnt work out.

  38. @ anon January 9, 2012 12:45 PM,so your cuzin(not your cousin)was in that pen?I got news for you,thats not a pen,its a holding facility...MCC Chicago?Metropolitan Correctional Center...NOT a for extortion,your (cuzin) would serve him (Vicente Zambada Niebla)hand & foot & kiss his ass just for the opportunity to say he knew a Big Shot!!Dont forget it was Chicago homegrowns who told on this guy!!The Flores brothers?!yeah,probly your (cuzins)homeboys...

  39. SSSSSSoploneSSSSSSS rataSSSSSSSSSS SSSSSnitcheSSSSSSS puro alterado del culo.

  40. It is a no brainer there is no "loyalty" among thugs, n capos. When the DEA is starring at u in the face telling u that if u don't cuaperate u get 36 yrs in prison or if u "help them out" u get a slap on the wrist n 5 yrs .......ur gona sing like a little bitch......its every man for himself.......I don't give a shit if ur from sinaloa, juatez, zetas, gulf, la M, or the aryan brotherhood......

  41. "Fuck the Attorney there actually your worst enemy"

    hahaha what kind of idiot are you? Clearly one whos never been arrested, or never made enough money drug dealing to afford a decent private attorney. Trust me when you get locked up a good defense attorney is going to be your best friend, i know from experience. The goal is to get out of jail as soon as possible, not do as much time as possible because of some misguided quest for honor. As for "not snitching", you can go ahead and do a couple years sitting in a cell by yourself, knowing your a real stand up guy. But no one else will know it, cuz no one in prison gives a shit about you. Me, id rather be a free man then throw my freedom away protecting some drug dealer who doesnt give a fuck if i live or die. Trust me the guy who snitches has the last laugh on the outside, while your eating ramen noodles in your cell, bragging to your bunk mate how you'd never snitch.

  42. Every Capo sings like a canary once they get arrested. No snitching? Yeah right, dream on buddy.

  43. in my opinion is not snitching is being smart they are having the us goverment handdle the dirty work for them haha and well to all those who are talking smack i bet anything you wouldnt say that to their face lol buncth of panes hahaha

  44. you can tell he was angry
    his look was firm they had betrayed him
    the people who once ate from his hand
    ha goverment it was my own people
    agents from the dea i was their boss
    i took away their hunger for years
    once they where full they betrayed me
    but you will also pay your sin's


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