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Monday, May 15, 2023

Agency Rivalries During the US Hunt for 'Los Chapitos'

"Socalj" for Borderland Beat

Last May, a team of federal agents chasing the sons of "El Chapo," caught a break. Through a combination of electronic data and human intelligence, the agents had tracked one of the sons, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, to a location in Sinaloa.

Eager to jump into action, the team prepared to work with the Mexican military and go after Guzmán Salazar.

But, according to records obtained by The New York Times and three people familiar with the matter, they were told to stand down by the Justice Department. The DEA was separately investigating "Los Chapitos" and it was thought that any active measures to take them into custody could disrupt their case or even get people killed.

Under the best circumstances, it is challenging for U.S. federal agents to chase drug lords in Mexico, where they are required to work with local partners who can often be unreliable or corrupt. But the episode involving Alfredo Guzmán Salazar points to a problem closer to home: the rivalries that can erupt when different law enforcement agencies go after the same targets.

The DEA helped bring a sprawling indictment against Los Chapitos in New York. While federal prosecutors and agents in Chicago, Washington, and San Diego, joined forces to bring their own case against "Los Chapitos."

However, neither the dispute nor its consequences were visible last month when Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who was flanked by representatives from all of the agencies, announced the new indictments against Los Chapitos. 

Garland celebrated the collective charges as a sweeping assault against the ability of the Guzmáns’ organization, the Sinaloa drug cartel, to ship fentanyl and other drugs from Mexico across the US border. “The Justice Department is attacking every aspect of the cartel’s operations,” Garland said.

Combined Cases

Around the same time, federal prosecutors in Chicago, San Diego, and Washington, some of whom had been investigating Los Chapitos for the better part of a decade, came up with a different plan. They wanted to merge three separate cases they had been working on involving Chapo's sons into a single case based in Chicago, according to five people familiar with the matter.

The Chicago case did not focus directly on Los Chapitos’ fentanyl operation, but it took a sweeping look at the men’s drug sales and violent crimes reaching back, in some instances, to 2008. It was built on the work of a coalition of agents from the DEA, the FBI, and the HSI. It incorporated a vast trove of evidence from a stable of cooperating witnesses and an initial round of indictments against Los Chapitos.

Jesús Alfredo, for example, had first been charged in Chicago in 2015 and his brother, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, had first been charged in San Diego one year earlier in 2014. Prosecutors in Washington had unsealed charges against their two half brothers, Ovidio Guzmán López and Joaquín Guzmán López, in 2019; just days after their father was convicted on all charges at his own trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

Case Put on Hold

Five people associated with the Chicago prosecution claim that the DEA pulled its resources out of the broader investigation just as it was reaching completion in favor of the New York fentanyl case. The senior DEA official said the agents working on the Chicago case were simply told to put their involvement in it on hold until the conflict was resolved through a kind of mediation process.

In the end, the senior DEA official said, officials at the Justice Department, serving as arbiters, secured an agreement about how to proceed. The consolidated Chicago case could move forward, the DEA official said, provided that the prosecutors in charge of it coordinated with their New York counterparts and did not take any “proactive” measures that might expose the covert sources working with the 959 Group (the Bilateral Investigations Unit that was set up to target traffickers overseas importing cocaine to the US) or otherwise harm the New York prosecution.

But some people associated with the Chicago case saw things differently. They believed the Justice Department had effectively ordered them to stand down on bringing their updated indictment until the prosecutors in New York had a chance to catch up and finish their work.

The DEA official also noted that the agency never sought to stop the Mexican authorities from taking down Los Chapitos on their own. And in January they did just that: Mexican security forces arrested Ovidio Guzmán López. It remains unclear when Ovidio Guzmán López might be extradited to the United States and, if he ultimately is, whether he will stand trial on the New York fentanyl charges or on one of the other indictments. His brothers remain at large in Mexico.

This week, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent a letter to Garland and to the heads of three federal law enforcement agencies, asking for an explanation about how the pursuit of the New York case, in particular, may have “impacted any attempts to arrest or capture” of the sons of "El Chapo." The letter also requested any records related to how the DEA, the FBI, several US attorney’s offices, and Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), had “de-conflicted” the various cases concerning Los Chapitos.


  1. Ofcourse the Dea did that. Duh . So funny to me.

  2. Animo Sicarios!
    Leave the Chapitos alone. Son agricultores de Maiz y Frijol . Just like El Señor.
    Bien firmes con el 09,El Gavilan ,y el Panu. Y arriba los Salazares y pura Gente Nueva hijos de la chingada !
    Atentamente :ya se lo saben Chavalones .

    1. And Epstein was just a misunderstood philanthropist

    2. 12:30 si cierto yo les compre frijoles de un saco cafe

  3. Southern District of California had Mini Lic to bring to the table, it's just now occurring to me, that they probably had more than enough for their own Chapitos indictment, considering the amount of trafficking that is detailed in Southern Cali and through the Tijuana corridor, San Diego.

    but all of them decided to join.

  4. Alfredo Is moving in a motorcycle 🏍️ and 1 pistolero on the back with aka47 in between Durango Chihuahua and Sinaloa these based on the people from small towns in those parts who said they seen him around moving every 1hour and living in a portable tent ⛺ so good luck on catching him 😄

    1. 3:45:
      According to Senator Kennedy he can't afford a tent and is living under a bridge in San Diego and eating cat food.

    2. This isn't rivalry. They have 30,000 federal agents investigating organized crime and sometimes one investigation runs into another and you have two different groups with two different opinions on how to proceed. Usually senior agents with the most experience from each agency iron things out like what happened here.
      The bottom line is that they put a lot of time and effort into the Chapitos. They can beat one case, but not them all.
      Ovidio will have a little time to think about mini lic's plea. This may be the reason that a photo and video was released on him in San Diego. It's more likely that Mini Lic is either in Colorado or Argentina and all of his published whereabouts are a screen to cover for where he is really at. Mini Lic's testimony is important to Uncle Sam so they are spending a lot of money keeping him alive.
      The photo and video may be a subtle message to Ovidio from the DEA saying "look at the nice life that Mini Lic is leading. You can lead the same life, or perhaps, you have smelled panocha for the last time in your life. The choice is yours".
      We will have to wait and see if El Raton gets the message.

    3. Even if there was issues between agencys now that the public knows those issues will be put to bed

    4. No way is he moving around like that, he doesn't have the discipline that his father possessed. He's a spoiled brat who cannot live without his luxuries.

    5. 5:43 jajajaja. Panocha time!

    6. 8:34 Discipline his father had?!!! The one that couldn't stay out the lime light and had girls kidnapped? Okay, if you say so

    7. 5:29 i agree with you on that, bit at the same time Chapitos are even less carefull than their paps

  5. It's not at all uncommon for compromises and trade-offs between multiple agencies where a target intersects. Same target, but different or similar charges and evidence. The guys closer to the case might get a little butt-hurt but it's the responsibility of the Justice Department to take the 30,000 foot view and for everyone to coordinate strategy and timing.

  6. Nothing ever move along while mexico in full.contempletion


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