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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Michigan plane purchase shows kingpin El Chapo’s reach

Posted by DD Republished from The Detroit News
(Thanks to the Anon. reader for the tip)

(DD;  That's the State of Michigan, USA, Not the State of Michoacan, Mexico.)

By , The Detroit News 

 Detroit — Notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s cartel bought a luxury airplane from a Michigan company, but federal agents intercepted the plane before the pilot flew to Mexico, The Detroit News has learned.

The revelation was recently disclosed in a federal court filing obtained by The News that chronicles international intrigue surrounding an airplane involved in a money-laundering caper stretching from a rural Monroe County town to Guadalajara, Mexico.

The case involves the most valuable piece of property ever seized by the Justice Department in Detroit, millions of dollars’ worth of allegedly laundered drug money, playboy narcotics dealers and a businessman who helped broker the airplane deal while trying to raise money for his wife’s fertility treatments, according to his lawyer.

Increased law enforcement and demand for fast, expensive planes that can haul drug kingpins and narcotics are forcing the Sinaloa cartel and others to shop farther away from states along the Mexican border and into the Midwest, experts say.

The case illustrates the inner-workings of the notorious Sinaloa cartel and shows that Mexican drug dealers are not merely selling narcotics in southeast Michigan, they’re shopping, too.
Feds seized this Commander two years ago in Texas. (Photo: R.A. Swick & Associates)
 Federal drug agents seized the turbo prop Rockwell International Commander 690B two years ago in Texas and nobody tried to get it back.

“Nobody wants the plane except for the government?” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman asked a federal prosecutor during a recent hearing in Detroit.

“What’s it worth?” the judge asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kuebler.

“Almost a million dollars,” the prosecutor said.

“Really?” the judge said.

Notorious drug kingpin

Joaquin ("El Chapo") Guzman   (Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP)
The investigation dates to 2012 and was focused on “El Chapo’s” cartel.

At the time, El Chapo was the fugitive head of the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s most powerful drug ring. El Chapo and his cartel were believed to have access to billions of dollars and sold cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine in approximately 54 countries.

El Chapo escaped a Mexican prison in 2001 and had been a fugitive for 11 years when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation that would eventually lead to Metro Detroit.

The cartel has deep ties to Metro Detroit.

From 2008-12, a branch of the Sinaloa cartel was importing up to 660 pounds of cocaine into Metro Detroit every month, federal prosecutors said.

Drug shipments typically entered the U.S. at the Mexican border in Arizona before being driven to Michigan. Members met at a warehouse in Wyandotte where the cocaine was unloaded and distributed, according to court records.

Drug ties in Metro Detroit

The cartel used an unlikely tool to avoid detection in Metro Detroit: Leo Earl Sharp, an 87-year-old drug mule from Michigan City, Indiana.

Sharp was arrested in October 2011 while trying to deliver 228 pounds of cocaine hidden in the back of his pickup.

“Just kill me and let me leave this planet,” Sharp said after a Michigan State Police trooper found drugs in the man’s truck.

The cartel relied on more powerful forms of transportation in Mexico.

El Chapo’s cartel had the largest air fleet in Mexico, larger than Aeromexico, the nation’s largest airline.

The cartel’s fleet served a network of 4,771 hidden airstrips lacing Mexico’s mountainous northern states.

From 2006 to 2015, Mexican military authorities seized 599 aircraft from the cartel, according to the newspaper El Universal. That fleet is almost five times the size of Aeromexico.

One drug run can pay for a fleet of planes.

Drug rings the size of Sinaloa can buy a plane for $1 million, load and deliver $10 million worth of cocaine and then torch the aircraft.

“Typically, a cartel or a drug-trafficking organization would employ small aircraft ... to facilitate the movement of their product ... or themselves,” Patrick Curran, a DEA special agent involved in the Torres investigation, testified during a court hearing. “High-level cartel members are typically fugitives. They can’t travel via commercial aircraft like you or I could, or by other legitimate means.”
The plane was sold in May 2014 for $940,000. It is now in the feds’ hands. (Photo: Department of Homeland Security)
 Feds focus on sons

El Chapo’s sons were more closely involved in buying airplanes in the Midwest, prosecutors alleged.
Sons Ivan and Jesus Alfredo Guzman are known for flaunting their wealth and playboy lifestyles on Twitter and Instagram, posting photos of bikini-clad women, pet tigers, bikini-clad women with pet tigers, stacks of cash, a Ferrari with a gold-plated AK-47 propped against the dashboard and private planes.

In November 2012, more than a year after Sharp’s arrest, federal agents started intercepting the Guzman brothers’ electronic communications, court records show.

The investigation soon led to an email account used by a Sinaloa cartel lieutenant who worked for El Chapo’s sons. The lieutenant used the alias “Roco Loco.”

Fake name, real riches

In December 2012, agents learned Roco Loco and El Chapo’s sons allegedly were conspiring to launder more than $300,000 in drug proceeds, prosecutors allege.
The money was being spent on a 1982 Cessna Turbo 210 registered to a company near Cincinnati, Ohio.

The cartel used a middleman to negotiate and buy the plane, prosecutors said.

The middleman, Jorge Martin Torres, is described in federal court records as a high-level money laundering associate working for a cell of the Sinaloa Cartel. The cell was led by El Chapo’s sons, according to court records.

Torres, 40, lived in Mexico and traveled to the U.S. on a tourist visa, acquiring vehicles, properties and businesses for a range of clients.

“The inventory is millions of dollars. Lamborghinis, Maseratis, multiple BMWs, Mercedes...Porsches,” Curran, the DEA special agent, testified during an earlier court hearing. “Very high-end luxury cars.”

Torres was helping the cartel while trying to raise money to pay for his wife’s fertility treatments, his lawyer Albert Flores wrote in a court filing.

“They were desperately trying to complete a trial of expensive fertility treatments that would possibly allow them to conceive,” Flores wrote. “Money motivations to justify criminal activity under most circumstances are not unique.”

Emails monitored by federal agents showed Torres was involved in buying the Cessna in Ohio. One email from his account included an international wire transfer receipt showing payment from a bank account belonging to a company, Gasoestacion Ecologica, located near Guadalajara, Mexico.

“...Torres uses a network of money couriers/launderers who transfer drug proceeds through multiple means, including structured bank deposits, bulk cash smuggling and international wires, to obfuscate the source and origin of the funds,” DEA Special Agent Emilia Fernandez wrote in a court filing. 

“These funds are then used to purchase items, including airplanes, cars, high-end watches and other items.

The big-ticket items were purchased through straw buyers and, in the Cessna’s case, transported to Mexico.

In general, only U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens are allowed to own aircraft registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. Individuals often use fake names, aliases or straw buyers to acquire and register aircraft involved in illegal activity or hide the true owner’s identity, according to the Justice Department.
The Commander’s interior features a “potty” seat and mahogany tables and trim. (Photo: R.A. Swick & Associates)
   Trail leads to Michigan

When the cartel bought the Cessna in late 2012, El Chapo had been a fugitive for 11 years.
El Chapo escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 and hid from authorities until being caught by Mexican marines in February 2014 in the coastal city of Mazatlan.

El Chapo’s capture didn’t crimp the cartel’s air demands.

In 2014, the cartel went plane shopping in Metro Detroit. Simultaneously, the Department of Homeland Security went fishing.

In early 2014, used airplane salesman Rick Swick got a surprise phone call at his office in Lambertville, an hour southwest of Detroit, near Monroe.

The caller was a Homeland Security agent, warning Swick that Mexican nationals increasingly were shopping for airplanes in the Midwest.

“Because if they tried to buy airplanes in south Florida, it’s easier for there to be a red flag,” Swick said he was told.

The Homeland Security agent told Swick to call if there was ever a suspicious deal. Two weeks later, in spring 2014, Swick called the federal agent.

“I told him ‘you’re not going to believe this,’ ” Swick said.

‘Just magnificent’

Swick told agents he was contacted by a Mexican national interested in buying one of his used airplanes, a 1978 Rockwell International Commander 690B. The plane was advertised on the company’s website and on aviation industry websites.

Swick was selling the airplane on behalf of Quarry Services, a Montana mining and hauling company.
Quarry used the plane to oversee operations in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, general manager Sam Buchanan said in an interview.

“It was a nice plane, as planes go,” Buchanan said. “We used it quite a bit when the oil business was doing really well, but we didn’t need it, nor could we afford it, after a while.”

The airplane — painted “Matterhorn White” and “Ming Blue” — with tan leather seats and wall-to-wall carpet, was overhauled with updated avionics and could top 300 mph, Swick said.

The propellers are mounted high on the plane’s wings, making the Commander ideal for landing on unpaved airstrips in rural outposts.

“For an older turbo prop,” Swick said, “it was just magnificent.

“It’s a really good airplane if you’re wanting to smuggle things out of a backwoods, short runway,” Swick added.

The sales pitch — “Simply the nicest...Commander available in the world!” — reached an interested buyer in Mexico.

The prospective buyer’s name sounded familiar to federal agents.

It was Roco Loco, the alias used by the Sinaloa cartel lieutenant involved in the Cessna plane purchased in Ohio two years earlier.

“He seemed pretty knowledgeable. Roco would email me, but I could never get him on the phone,” Swick said. “A question would come up and he’d say ‘I have a guy in the U.S. that handles all of this. Handle it with Wolf.”

That’s Wolf Hofman, who runs an air freight company in Laredo, Texas, a town along the Mexico border.

“Hofman is well known to members of law enforcement as being suspected in multiple illegal activities, including involvement with Mexican drug-trafficking organizations,” Kuebler, the federal prosecutor, wrote in a court filing.

Hofman has not been charged with a crime. He could not be reached for comment.

Digital breadcrumbs

There were other figures hiding in the background, however, who would lead to El Chapo’s cartel and family tree.

In February 2014, federal agents seized $675,851 during an ongoing drug investigation centered in Illinois. The investigation already had netted millions of dollars of drug proceeds thanks, in part, to wiretaps.

The investigation led DEA agents to Torres, the Mexican businessman who helped the cartel acquire the Cessna airplane in Ohio, according to court records.

Torres was helping the cartel buy the Commander airplane by relaying wire transfers and other documents, prosecutors said. He used his cellphone to exchange emails and text messages with a cartel lieutenant, leaving a digital breadcrumb trail for investigators to follow, prosecutors allege.
Torres coordinated payments from cartel front companies, including more than $233,000 in wire transfers in April and May 2014, according to court records.

One $76,511 wire transfer came from Gasoestacion Ecologica, the same Mexican company linked to the Cessna in Ohio, according to court records.

The cartel’s interest in the Michigan airplane surprised Swick. The Commander, with its updated avionics and powerful engine, was larger and nicer than the typical cartel airplane, he said.
“Usually, they buy s---,” Swick said.

The Commander likely was not intended to smuggle drugs, Swick recalls being told by the Homeland Security agent.

“(The agent) said this was going to be for executive transportation for upper-end members,” Swick said.

Lone Star state

The sale closed in May 2014 for $940,000 and the Commander was flown to a company operating at San Antonio International Airport in Texas.

Agents seized the Commander on May 12, 2014, before the plane could be flown to Mexico.
Federal agents allowed Quarry Services to be paid for the plane and Swick received his commission. 

The government kept the plane.

It is rare for federal agents to seize airplanes worth as much as the Commander. Nine airplanes worth at least $1 million have been seized by the U.S. government since 2011.

All were from states bordering or near Mexico, except for a $1.4 million plane seized last year in Anchorage, Alaska, according to Justice Department records.

Torres, the Mexican middleman accused of helping the cartel acquire both airplanes, was arrested after flying into San Antonio for vacation in October 2014, five months after the Commander was seized by agents.

El Chapo, meanwhile, escaped from a maximum-security Mexican prison in July 2015, fleeing through a tunnel built under his shower stall.

He was a fugitive for six months before being recaptured in January 2016.

Torres, meanwhile, was charged for his role in helping the cartel acquire the Cessna in Ohio and sentenced in November to 44 months in federal prison.

Last month, the Commander airplane was forfeited to the government and likely will be sold.

“Significant seizures like this one deal a blow to criminal organizations by cutting off potential transportation modes that support a wide range of criminal activity,” Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit, said in a statement. “The vast majority of proceeds from these seizures go right back into the community to counter criminal activity.”

Before he ordered the plane forfeited to the government last month, Friedman wanted to know where prosecutors had stashed the plane.

Prosecutors dodged the question and the hearing ended within minutes after the judge and his staff drooled over the plane.

“We looked at pictures,” the judge said. “We want to take it for a ride.”


  1. Yo anybody whats up with all corruption with gas prices on rice fam of mine say alot of bad things going on in puerto vallarta due to high rise cost of gas check it out wats up from watsonville ca attentamente el fresero

    1. Gas is being held by cartels in ranches

    2. Cartels don't have tanks to keep fuels temporarily, they barely keep up with the demand, it is hard enugh to keep supplying their TEXAN CUSTOMERS by the pipe tanker truck.
      No fuel is to be sold until customers agree to pay the price legally set by the legal government and stop or quit haciendola de pedo or both.

    3. The gas is being spiked by Mex GOVNMT which occurs every January; But this years been drastically bad with the political climate around the World. The Mex. Govnmnt is taking advantage of the people who earn little to nothing.
      This year you will see American oil companies open in Mex and it wont be subsidized by Pemex anymore. For this the Mex Govnmnt amd Mex Oil Giant Pemex have hiked the price to create chaos and rape the people of their money.

  2. that mofo still got propellers...the media is making mountains out of molehills!

    1. Clandestine runways in the mountains or in the fields in So Cal... try a landing a G5 there. Turbo Prop is what they need.

    2. They propellers are used only to ventilate the potty inside dá plane, nobody wants to die from all the methane.

  3. he bought more than planes, if you only knew... you would dance!

  4. El chapo is the biggest drug lord in the world of all times thats crazy i doubt any other drug lord will ever be on top of the sinaloa boss

    1. hes one of them. theres alot more like chapo. but itll be years very long years to top what chapo did. does this tell you something. rafael caro, arellanos.cdg.. ect.. have any of them walk away from pision not once but twice.?? hes done alot of thing that no other had done.. alot of years will pass to see someone top it. untill then. hes one of the big guys. along with some other sinaloa group people. i dont include the rest as they are not on the same level..

    2. Mencho already surpassed him. Making More money with the cuinis making Euros not dollars. Dumb chapo was just to bussy contacting singers to make fake corridos about how Gallo he was but turned out to be a gallina lmao haha

    3. @11:31 have you ever heard of El Mayo Zambada?

    4. Amado, Pablo, Caro..?

    5. Mayo is bigger. Chapo is given too much credit. Dont forget he was in prison the 90s while mayo azul and arturo made cds. Beltranes opened up plazas for chapo after 2001.Chapo destroyed the federation fighting carrillos and beltran. Now all these capos are weak for infighting. Chapos never been a negotiating mafioso but a trouble maker. He never made CDS big, hes the one that brought it down.

    6. 2:40 In that case, Quintero walked out off prison tru the front door didn't need to escape

    7. If a guy gets captured it shows that his power wasn't as strong. El mayo and even Mencho have eveded capture. Chapo got captured 3 times lol shows no support from government. Mayo gets tipped off every time they go after him while Mencho turns Jalisco, michoacan, colima and guanajuato into a nightmare and still not caught..

    8. Euros are almost equivalent to a dollar dumbass

    9. Have you guys ever heard of alvin topperson? . Way bigger then chapo mayo mencho pablo for sure. So rich and powerful

    10. @8:13 I've never heard of him and Google search turned up nothing. Why don't you tell us about him.

    11. Please dont compare mencho to chapo menso is at the same level has comadante toro of cdg he has evade captured more times ok

    12. Chapo is big but you forgetting The Sinaloa from the alamo El mayo zambada never been captured more than 70 years in the game head of the sinaloa cartel know in every corner of the world supplying the product de sinaloa para el mundo puro sinaloa compa

    13. 6:54 if your working with millions of euros you get back thousands of extra dollars,smart guy.. lol so if you keep getting millions of euros eventually they will be extra millions dumb ass.. it hurt your pride talking about your daddy chapo huh lmao

    14. How can el mayo have 70 years in the game when he is only 69 years old? Unless he was in the game a year before he was born I find it impossible..

    15. 9:14 there are lots of guys that are unheard of from Colombia, Michoacan and other parts that are low profile and are heavy hitters in the drug game. Just because you don't hear a corrido about them or see them on t.v doesn't mean that they don't exist. But those are the ones calling the shots. Chapo and Caro quintero are just pawns in the game that got used as examples. they blamed caro quintero for the death of kiki camarena and it wasn't even him... chapo is just used to act like they are really making progress on the b.s. war on drugs. Even Mayo took some heavy losses because 3 of his kids are locked up in prison in the U.S of A. It was a good business back in the 70's to early 90's but all the known capos all took hits because of all the competition. Especially after zetas split from golfos and michoacanos split from golfos and made their own cartels to add to the blood shed in a more brutal way never seen in Mexico's drug wars.

    16. 70 yrs? Lmaooo!!! Shut the fuck up and go play xbox

  5. I think its so stupid how mexico or usa without a doubt call them criminals, yet theyll make a tv series of the suspect. Pablo escobar has 3 series chapo, n griselda blanco as well etc. So how can yu call them criminals. To me the government also are the criminals, they take yur money homes properties etc keep everything for themselves but not one cent for families in need homeless ppl on d streets. They wanna act like the heroes yet they get over being humble. They already make so much a yr, so whos really the ones winning here

  6. El chapo snitched maybe?

  7. Dont ever compare mencho the tweaker with senor Guzman
    You soun delusiounal

    This is a sinaloa cartel art
    Jalisquillas and michoacacas always trying to be like the sinaloans

    1. Your just a hater 11:48

    2. No my friend your the hater

      this is a sinaloa cartel topic

    3. 11:48 they are open conversations on this blog when posting, it was a comparison to Chapo and Mencho that actually had some truth to it while your comment was just a hater coment with no facts just hate. " "jalisquillas and michoacacas" really, how old are you 13? Fu@#!ng hater lol

    4. 10:26 its an opened convention. Just like in zetas, golgos and michoacan topics are always full of commentators on sinaloa nuts. Nobody is name calling here. now stop the hating, nobody called you a snitchaloa!

  8. Only thing different with the government criminals is they should also have their own series,then they could be on par with the narcos.Can you even imagine how interesting the series would be?

  9. Should've rewired it so the authorities could take control of the plane in flight and wired it to hear who was on board. Then when it was loaded with narco chiefs send it crashing to the ground!
    The Americans play too nice!

    1. 4:27 cuban plumber terrorists like luis posada carriles that could do that are too old now to do dirty plumbing like that.

  10. Obviously, there is no wondering by the CDS that the plane's broker scrooed them!
    I guess the broker will always be wondering!

  11. Hey does anyone want to argue with me about who the bigger drug dealer is? Or who controls which territory? Lets go bring it on, i know everything!!!!!

    1. 8:11 ok, you know it all, now shut the fock up.

  12. I love when the Peasents start arguing about who's the biggest Boss.

    So many rich Narcos don't even make any noise, cause they don't want the attention.


    1. Blanca nieves if you know something say it, if not shut your pie hole

    2. Peasants? What are you a king? Lmao

  13. Gotta love asset forfeiture.. When will the people of the USA tell the gov to fuck off and this is ILLEGAL- And it happens all over the us to innocent people as well. Good luck getting your money back

  14. Mencho is bigger than chapo but not as flashy or alway trying to get exaggerated dumb corridos so the average person thinks he's not as big because they don't hear about him. Unlike chapo who got famous world wide cuz his 2 escapes and 1000's of corridos. Trying to take over tijuana and juarez but never could take juarez. Mencho got tijuana in lesser time than chapo could without help from crooked leyzola. Just like there is a few people from all over the world unheard of running the show in the shadows. Tgere is Mencho taking sinaloa plazas all over Mexico and the west coas of U.S of A. Don't believe me? Look it up, there's plenty of stories here on border land beat that prove my point.

    1. Stories not proven facts! Rumors

    2. 10:34 Mencho took out sinaloa plaza in Tijuana. That's not a rumor.

  15. DD thanks for the articles. Much appreciation.Thanks to the Blog Too. When did BB get the NSL. How long have you been working for the FEEB.

    1. @10:46 We appreciate the word of thanks, but you'll have translate your abbreviations for this old man. Google shows hundreds of different "NSL" meanings and Feeb shows it can be an abbreviation for a feeble minded person or "An individual who is seen as vulnerable to being robbed, extorted, deceived or intimidated by a gang". But though you might mean one of those they really don't seem to fit the context of how you used it. So I am afraid you are going to have to explain what you are talking about before I can answer you.

  16. The rumor is true.. Mayo, Beltran and Carrillo are now fighting Guzman and the Zetas.. who would have thought that chapo and zetas would ever form an alliance?? This is no match the former three mentioned worked together at one point, however chapo and zetas are gonna have a hard time trusting eachother.

    1. Chapitos are ganna be killed or captured soon.

    2. Don't believe that

    3. 8:42 you are full of crap.

  17. Why is this old story from 2012 pertinent now

    1. @10:60 The Detroit News By line for the story shows "Published 8:00 p.m. ET Jan. 5, 2017 | Updated 11:07 a.m. ET Jan. 6, 2017

  18. People that say mencho is bigger than chapo dont know shit mencho is not even bigger than chapos kids

    1. Your just biast or a sinaloa groupie. It's obvious Mencho is bigger than chapo ever was. Dumb chapo got busted 3 times lol and all those times his 1000's of Talibanes with bazookas were M.I.A lmao

  19. You sound delusional please dont comment on things you dont know menso is a pos tweaker thats going to get caught soon and hes going to stay in jail because he will never escape like chapo im half sinaloan and half jalisco
    Im not biased i just saay the truth


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