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U.S. Government Argues Convicted Drug Lord El Chapo Should Forfeit a Mere $12,000,000,000


After a federal judge shut down Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman‘s attempt to get a new trial based on claims that the jury that convicted him was tainted, the U.S. government has argued that El Chapo should be required to forfeit the humble sum of more than $12 billion dollars.

The government proposed this on Friday in the Eastern District of New York, saying 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.”

You can read the whole filing below.

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. We are talking about crimes like operating a continuing criminal enterprise, substantive drug and drug conspiracy, unlawful use of a firearm, and money laundering conspiracy. The drug trafficking charges mean that El Chapo faces life in prison.

El Chapo is going to be sentenced after 9 a.m. on July 17.

Throughout the trial, the defense argued that El Chapo was a fall guy for kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. Prosecutors, on the other hand, said Guzman violently trafficked in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The jury agreed that El Chapo was guilty as charged.

Even the judge in the case, Judge Brian Cogan, did not shy away from detailing the brutality of the crimes:

During the three months of trial, the jury heard testimony from over 50 witnesses, including 14 cooperating witnesses and dozens of law enforcement witnesses. The witnesses testified about defendant’s extensive drug trafficking activities, including of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin, and including his use of planes, trains, helicopters, boats, semi- submersibles, automobiles, and foot tunnels, to accomplish his international work. The witnesses also testified about defendant’s many acts of violence, including that defendant personally killed or tortured his victims and that defendant ordered his sicarios, or hitmen, to murder or torture others, in furtherance of his vast drug empire, as well as about the violent wars in which defendant and his sicarios participated against the enemies of the Sinaloa Cartel. The jury also read defendant’s text messages and heard recordings about his drug trafficking activities (including recordings of defendant himself) and saw in court examples of the types of weapons and machinery defendant used and with which he outfitted his sicarios to protect hisvast and lucrative drug interests. The jury also saw in court drugs that were seized from some of defendant’s narcotics operations.

Judge Cogan determined on Wednesday that the allegations that jurors routinely consulted inadmissible evidence, broke court rules and lied to him about it did not rise to the level of prejudice against the defendant. The judge therefore denied El Chapo the evidentiary hearing and new trial his defense lawyers requested.

“Following a three-month trial, a jury found defendant guilty of 10 counts related to his widespread drug trafficking activity as a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Defendant has moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 for a new trial upon an evidentiary hearing based on allegations of juror misconduct. For the reasons below, his motion for both an evidentiary hearing and a new trial is denied,” the judge ruled.

The government reiterated that it is “entitled to the forfeiture of all property that constitutes or is derived from the defendant’s narcotics-related crimes, as well as any property that facilitated the commission of those crimes.”

US Gov’t Wants $12 Billion from El Chapo by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images]

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