Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was convicted of drug-trafficking charges Tuesday morning at a trial in New York. The verdict could land the 61-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.
He broke out of various Mexican prisons twice before he was extradited to New York in 2017. Nearly 50 witnesses detailed how Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel amassed billions of dollars importing cocaine, meth and other illicit drugs to the U.S.
Witnesses detailed assassinations and political payoffs, among other thuggish tactics to distribute drugs across the U.S. border. He was found guilty of trafficking over 440,000 pounds of cocaine and will likely have $14 billion in assets seized by U.S. officials (RELATED: The El Chapo Trial Starts Tuesday. Here’s What You Need To Know)
Guzmán’s conviction came after prosecutors amassed a sizable amount of evidence, demonstrating a remarkable degree of penetration into the syndicate’s inner workings, according to John Horn, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted similar cases but is now working in private practice.
“There does need to be a conviction of somebody like Chapo Guzmán, both for the symbolism and the pure factor of justice being served,” Horn told reporters before the verdict. “It does show that . . . for somebody at his level, justice will be done, it will be served. It’s an incredibly powerful victory for DOJ, for law enforcement.”
Guzmán’s lawyers claim he was set up as a scapegoat and spent the duration of the trial attacking the credibility of witnesses, many of whom have extensive criminal histories. Stories of the Guzmán’s life and sorted dealings were leached out into the public realm during the course of the trial, which lasted less than three months.
His story is one of legend. Guzman once paid $100 million to former President Enrique Pena Nieto, Alex Cifuentes, a former close partner, told prosecutors. Pena Nieto, who served as the 57th president of Mexico between 2012 and 2018, has denied taking any bribes.
The Sinaloa Cartel also paid millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican officials at every level, Jesus Zambada, whose brother, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, worked alongside the notorious gangster and is still at large, told prosecutors.
Guzmán also earned a ruthless reputation in prison. He ordered a fellow prisoner killed after the man refused to shake his hand, which ignited a war between the cartels. Guzmán escaped prison in one instance in 2014 through a tunnel hidden beneath a bathtub — he was naked during the attempt.
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