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July 17, 2019New York, NY, United StatesFinancial Crimes

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, Sinaloa Cartel leader, sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years

NEW YORK – Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was sentenced today by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan to life imprisonment plus 30 years to run consecutive to the life sentence for being a principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise – the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel – a charge that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy. The Court also ordered Guzman Loera to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

This sentence and judgement follows follows an investigation, which led to his extradition to the U.S. to face charges and eventual conviction, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York and Arizona, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with assistance from the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), the FBI, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The HSI New York case was handled by its El Dorado Task Force.

Guzman Loera was convicted by a federal jury on February 12, 2019, following a three-month trial, of all 10 counts of the superseding indictment, including narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy. The evidence at trial established that Guzman Loera was a principal leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based international drug trafficking organization responsible for importing and distributing more than a million kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in the United States. The evidence included testimony from 14 cooperating witnesses, including Sinaloa Cartel members Rey and Vicente Zambada, Miguel Martinez, Tirso Martinez, Damaso Lopez and Alex Cifuentes; narcotics seizures totaling over 130,000 kilograms of cocaine and heroin; weapons, including AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher; ledgers; text messages; videos; photographs and intercepted recordings that detailed the drug trafficking activity of Guzman Loera and his co-conspirators over a 25-year period from January 1989 until December 2014.

From the mid-1980s until his arrest in Mexico in 1993, Guzman Loera was a mid-level operative of the Sinaloa Cartel, earning a name for himself and the nickname “El Rapido” for how quickly he transported drugs from Mexico to the United States for the Colombian cartels. After he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, Guzman Loera formed an alliance with fugitive co-defendant Ismael Zambada Garcia and, together, they became the preeminent leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzman Loera enforced his will and maintained control of his drug empire through an army of lethal “sicarios” or hitmen and a sophisticated communications network.

The trial highlighted the methods Guzman Loera and his organization used to transport the cartel’s multi-ton shipments of narcotics into the United States, including fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains with secret compartments and transnational underground tunnels. Once the narcotics were in the United States, they were sold to wholesale distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Guzman Loera then used various methods to launder billions of dollars of drug proceeds, including bulk cash smuggling from the United States to Mexico, U.S.-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards and numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company.

Guzman Loera and his organization relied upon violence to maintain its power throughout the region and beyond. Numerous co-conspirators testified that Guzman Loera directed his hitmen to kidnap, interrogate, torture and slaughter members of rival drug organizations, at times carrying out acts of violence himself. As part of its arsenal, the Sinaloa Cartel had access to weapons, including grenades and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Guzman Loera’s personal arsenal included a gold plated AK-47 and three diamond-encrusted .38 caliber handguns, one emblazoned with his initials, “JGL.”

Guzman Loera and his organization also relied on a vast network of corrupt government officials and employees to protect and further the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel. They included local law enforcement officers, prison guards, high-ranking members of the armed forces, and elected office holders. In exchange, the Cartel paid these individuals millions of dollars in bribes.

“After a decade long investigation, Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera’s reign over the Sinaloa Cartel is over,” said Derek N. Benner, Executive Associate Director for HSI. “Because of the initiative and expertise of HSI Special Agents in New York and Phoenix working together with our law enforcement partners, ‘El Chapo’ will no longer be able to inflict violence or traffic vast amounts of illegal drugs into our communities.”

“On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, I want to express my gratitude to our HSI agents and diligent law enforcement partners for their work in this monumental conviction,” said Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security. “This sentence will send a resounding message that transnational criminal organizations all over the world are being continuously investigated and their leaders will be brought to justice.”

“Guzman Loera’s day of reckoning has finally come. Never again will he pour poison into our country, or make millions as innocent lives are lost. We cannot undo the violence, misery and devastation inflicted on countless individuals and communities as result of his organization’s sale of tons of illegal drugs for more than two decades, but we can ensure that he spends every minute of every day in prison,” stated Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “The same fate awaits those who would take his place. I thank the brave members of law enforcement, here and abroad, for their tireless efforts that have finally secured justice in this case.”

“The long road that brought ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera to a United States courtroom is lined with drugs, death, and destruction, but ends today with justice,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Thanks to the unflagging efforts of the Department of Justice and the law enforcement community over the past 25 years, this notorious leader of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Western hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

“The life sentence imposed today is the only just result for someone who spent a lifetime spreading his poison throughout our country. The impact of keeping former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman Loera behind bars, for the rest of his life, cannot be overstated: the world will now be shielded from his brutality,” said Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Thanks to the unyielding efforts of this team, the public was finally able to see how Guzman Loera used any means necessary to control his ruthless empire, including kidnapping, corruption, torture, and murder. Our U.S. Attorney’s Offices continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to protect our citizens from the scourge of illicit drugs.”

“This sentencing shows the world that no matter how protected or powerful you are, DEA will ensure that you face justice,” stated Uttam Dhillon, Acting Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “This result would not have been possible without the dedication and determination of so many brave men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who worked tirelessly to see the world’s most dangerous, prolific drug trafficker behind bars in the United States. This is a huge victory for the rule of law, for thousands of current and retired DEA agents and analysts worldwide, and for all of our law enforcement partners here, in Mexico, and across the globe.”

“Today’s sentencing is the culmination of years of effort from numerous local, state, federal, and international partners,” stated Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). “It highlights the dedication and determination of men and women in law enforcement to bring one of the world's most notorious drug traffickers to justice. The FBI has no tolerance for those who endanger our communities and destroy lives through drugs and violence. We’ll continue to work day and night to find and stop those who distribute illegal substances and commit unimaginable violence.”

“The United States Marshals Service was tasked with ensuring the integrity of the judicial process in this case,” stated Bryan T. Mullee, Acting U.S. Marshal, Eastern District of New York. “It was paramount that all participants in the case could operate without undue influence or fear in a secure environment, and we accomplished that. On behalf of the United States Marshals Service in the Eastern District of New York, I would like to express my gratitude to all of our law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly in support of our mission, most notably, the incredibly talented men and women of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), The Federal Protective Service (FPS), The 24th Civil Support Team of the New York National Guard and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).”

“Let today’s sentencing show the world that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has not escaped the American justice system and, now, will finally be held accountable for his many years of criminal behavior,” said James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD). “I want to thank the members of the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the New York State Police and the NYPD detectives on the Drug Enforcement Task Force for their hard work on this investigation and trial.”

“With this sentencing, justice has been served. For two decades, this individual used extreme violence, bribes, and any means necessary to bring dangerous and deadly drugs into our country and state,” stated Keith M. Corlett, Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP). “This sentence should serve as a reminder that no one is above the law. I applaud our partners in law enforcement for their tireless work on this case, bringing an end to the destruction this man, and this enterprise caused for decades.”

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.