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Federal Prosecutors Fire Parting Shots at ‘Ruthless and Bloodthirsty’ El Chapo Ahead of Sentencing


Federal prosecutors filed a letter on Wednesday evening ahead of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s sentencing in the Eastern District of New York, calling the convicted Sinaloa Cartel boss a “ruthless and bloodthirsty leader.”

Prosecutors said that Guzman should be sentenced to the mandatory minimum of life in prison due to his murderous drug trafficking enterprise and be ordered to pay restitution. They also asked that the court dismiss criminal counts two, three and four (without prejudice) in anticipation of the defense raising a double jeopardy issue. The government said that “overwhelming evidence” demonstrated that Guzman was “ruthless and bloodthirsty.” They pointed to the 14 cooperating witnesses who backed the case against El Chapo [citations removed]:

Testimony showed that the Sinaloa Cartel was one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, and that it was able to seize control of vast swaths of territory throughout Mexico. It did so by wielding extraordinary violence, including kidnapping, torture and murder, as a tool to enforce discipline against its members and those who acted against the Cartel’s interests, as well as through extensive public corruption. The defendant’s army of sicarios frequently carried out this violence on the defendant’s direct orders; sometimes he carried out this violence himself. Testimony also showed that from the 1980s until his arrest, the defendant was relentless in devising new methods to evade law enforcement detection to enable him to transport multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America to the United States for distribution. In addition to cocaine, the defendant oversaw the shipment of heroin, cocaine base, ephedrine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. Over the course of trial, the evidence showed that the defendant was responsible for the importation or attempted importation into the United States of at least 1,213,100 kilograms of cocaine, 1,440 kilograms of cocaine base, 222 kilograms of heroin, 49,800 kilograms of marijuana and quantities of methamphetamine.

Federal prosecutors next noted that El Chapo remained in charge of the cartel through “unyielding obstruction of justice,” including the ordered “killing, kidnapping and torture of individuals whom he believed were cooperating with law enforcement against his personal interests and the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

After Judge Brian Cogan denied El Chapo’s attempt to get a new trial based on claims that the jury was tainted, the U.S. government argued that El Chapo should forfeit more than $12 billion dollars.

The government proposed this last Friday, arguing that it is “entitled to forfeiture of all property that constitutes or is derived from the defendant’s narcotics-related crimes; any property that facilitated the commission of those crimes; and the defendant’s interest in, claims against, and property or contractual rights affording a source of control over, the continuing criminal enterprise.”

According to the U.S. government’s calculation, El Chapo’s criminal enterprise “obtained for distribution, conservatively, over $12,666,191,704.00 worth of illegal drugs”:

The evidence showed that the drugs were sold in United States and the proceeds were laundered back to pay expenses, which included, but were not limited to, payroll for the defendant’s workers (Tr. 3041, 5036, 5044-45); the cost paying suppliers (Tr. 3593, 2963); communication equipment (Tr. 5480); and money to purchase planes, submarines and other vehicles (Tr. 2942, 1338). With the defendant having no legitimate source of income, the laundered proceeds from his drug trafficking activity and that of other members of the Cartel promoted the Cartel’s drug trafficking activity. As such, the government seeks a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $12,666,191,704.00, which represents the total amount of money laundered and/or property involved in the course of the charged money laundering conspiracy.

The government noted that jurors found El Chapo guilty of all ten counts in the indictment, including: operating a continuing criminal enterprise, substantive drug and drug conspiracy, unlawful use of a firearm, and money laundering conspiracy.

Despite the successful conviction on all counts, prosecutors asked the judge on Wednesday to dismiss “Counts Two through Four—the narcotics distribution conspiracy counts, which constitute lesser-included offenses of the CCE charged in Count One–so as not to impose double punishment for the same underlying criminal conduct.” In other words, they anticipate a double jeopardy challenge on appeal.

“In the event the conviction on Count One is reversed or vacated on appeal, the Court may reinstate the convictions on Counts Two through Four and sentence the defendant pursuant to those three counts,” prosecutors said. “Accordingly, the government requests that the Court dismiss Counts Two through Four without prejudice to reinstatement following appeal.”

El Chapo is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:15 a.m. on July 17.

You can read the 5-page letter below.

El Chapo sentencing memo by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Ted Psahos/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.