The Justice Department charged 28 members of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel, including four of El Chapo’s sons, on Friday in a massive fentanyl trafficking case.
The sprawling charges announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration were filed in the Southern District of New York, Northern District of Illinois, and Washington, DC, and target both leaders and lower-level cartel members.
Four sons of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — Ivan Guzman Salazar, 40, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 37, Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 36, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 33 — who are known collectively as the Chapitos, face accusations of weapons and firearms possession, money laundering, and fentanyl-tracking.
Ovidio Guzmán López is in custody along with seven other defendants. The other three sons of the drug kingpin remain at large.
Garland said some of those charged tortured their enemies, including Mexican cops, and even fed people who were still alive to tigers owned by the Chapitos.
Garland said the defendants are responsible for “the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world — run by the Sinaloa Cartel, and fueled by Chinese precursor chemical and pharmaceutical companies.”
The arrests are the result of a decades-long investigation that spanned 10 countries and five continents, the Justice Department said.
As well as cartel leaders, lower-level members such as lab technicians who make the fentanyl and security team members are charged.
One of the men charged, Nestor Isidro Perez Salas, 31, is allegedly a lead sicario, or assassin, for the Chapitos.
An estimated 196 American die each day from fentanyl overdoses, which increased an at alarming 94% between 2019 and 2021.
“Today’s indictments send a clear message to the Chapitos, the Sinaloa Cartel, and criminal drug networks around the world that the DEA will stop at nothing to protect the national security of the United States and the safety and health of the American people,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement.
Milgram said El Chapo, who is behind bars at a US maximum-security prison, and his sons “pioneered the manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl” in the “deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced.”
In announcing the charges, the Justice Department outlined a massive trafficking network run by the Chapitos, who used cargo planes, private aircraft, trains, cars, boats and even submarines to transport fentanyl and the chemicals needed to make it.
Feds say the Sinaloa Cartel has a “network of couriers, tunnels, and stash houses” in the US and Mexico to facilitate moving the drugs around the country.
DEA agents “proactively infiltrated the Sinaloa Cartel and the Chapitos network, obtained unprecedented access to the organization’s highest levels, and followed them across the world,” Milgram said.
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