Ten alleged Mexican drug cartel leaders among 43 defendants indicted in Brooklyn and Chicago as part of coordinated strike against Mexican drug trafficking organizations
“Breaking up these dangerous cartels and stemming the flow of drugs, weapons and cash across the Southwest border is a top priority for this Justice Department,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The cartels whose alleged leaders are charged today constitute multi-billion dollar networks that funnel drugs onto our streets and what invariably follows is more crime and violence in our communities. Today’s indictments demonstrate our unwavering commitment to root out the leaders of these criminal enterprises wherever they may be found. We will continue to stand with our partners in Mexico to dismantle the cartels’ insidious operations.”
“Realizing that neither of our two countries can win over drug traffickers on its own, we have built up the bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico to allow us to combine our investigative and legal resources to dismantle these transnational drug organizations and bring the leaders to justice,” said Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora. “We can only protect the right of our societies to live in peace and harmony through our governments’ mutual trust and shared responsibility.”
Three of the suspected leaders were charged in both Brooklyn and Chicago. Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman-Loera, Ismael “el Mayo” Zambada-Garcia and Arturo Beltran-Leyva, who are allegedly among the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, are alleged to be present and former heads of an organized crime syndicate known as the “Sinaloa Cartel” and “the Federation.” Each of these three is designated as a Consolidated Priority Organization Target or CPOT by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
Also charged in the Brooklyn indictments were seven other cartel leaders, including CPOT Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel Villarreal, Hector Beltran-Leyva (Arturo’s brother) and Jesus Zambada-Garcia (Ismael’s brother), each alleged leaders within the Federation; CPOT Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the alleged head of the Juarez Cartel; CPOT Luis and Esteban Rodriguez-Olivera, alleged leaders of Los Gueros; and CPOT Tirso Martinez-Sanchez, the alleged head of his own international drug trafficking organization.
Together, the four Brooklyn and eight Chicago indictments charge that between 1990 and December 2008, Guzman-Loera, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, Arturo Beltran-Leyva and others were responsible for importing into the United States and distributing nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine, additional large quantities of heroin, and the bulk smuggling from the United States to Mexico of more than $5.8 billion in cash proceeds from narcotics sales throughout the United States and Canada.
The indictments unsealed today collectively seek forfeiture of more than $5.8 billion in drug proceeds. Also, more than 32,500 kilograms of cocaine have been seized, including approximately 3,000 kilograms seized during the Chicago investigation, approximately 7,500 kilograms seized during the New York investigation and 22,500 kilograms seized previously that were later linked to the activities of the Federation. The indictments also detail seizures of 64 kilograms of heroin and more than $22.6 million in cash during the course of the investigation.
As part of the coordinated actions, eight defendants have been arrested in the Chicago and Atlanta areas in the last week. Earlier this year, 10 additional defendants, all customers of or couriers for the organizations, were charged separately in Chicago. Five defendants, all New York-based wholesale distributors or logistics coordinators for the cartels, were charged separately in Brooklyn. In all, 58 individuals have been charged in the investigation coordinated between the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in Brooklyn and Chicago. All but one of the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the charges against them.
“The indictments announced today are the result of a sweeping national and international effort to stem the flow of drugs across the U.S./Mexico border and into our communities,” said Benton J. Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We will apply all available resources to win this battle.” Mr. Campbell extended his grateful appreciation to ICE and the DEA Task Force in New York, the agencies responsible for leading the Eastern District’s investigation, and to the assistance provided by ICE and DEA in Miami, Houston, Mexico and Colombia.
“These indictments are among the most significant drug conspiracy charges ever returned in Chicago,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “They charge two major international supply organizations with importing many tons of cocaine and large quantities of heroin into the United States, often to wholesale distribution customers in Chicago, as well as to customers in other major cities. The defendants allegedly used practically every means of transportation imaginable to move these large amounts of drugs and to funnel massive amounts of money back to Mexico. I applaud the efforts of the DEA investigators who worked hard to put these cases together.” Mr. Fitzgerald also thanked the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division agents in Chicago and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for their assistance.
“Today’s indictments are yet another strike against the leadership of the Mexican drug cartels,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Our relentless investigations penetrated deep into these pervasive criminal organizations, connecting street operations in U.S. communities like Chicago and New York to the top drug kingpins calling the shots in Mexico. Make no mistake; along with our courageous partners in Mexico, we will break these cartels and pursue their leaders.”
“Law enforcement agencies in the Americas are working closer than ever before and setting up a united, borderless offense against drug cartels,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. “This is a significant step in breaking down the infrastructure of these criminal organizations.”
According to one of the Brooklyn indictments, between 1990 and 2005, Guzman-Loera, Ismael Zambada-Garcia and Arturo Beltran-Leyva, together with Hector Beltran-Leyva, Jesus Zambada-Garcia and Villareal as leaders of the Federation, conspired to import more than 120 metric tons (264,000 pounds) of cocaine into the United States through the cooperative arrangements and coordination that the Federation provided. Members of the Federation shared drug transportation routes and obtained their drugs from various Colombian drug organizations, in particular, the Colombian Norte Valle Cartel. For example, in 2004, two shipments totaling 22,500 kilograms of cocaine were seized by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Mexico. The indictment alleges that the defendants employed “sicarios,” or hitmen, who carried out hundreds of acts of violence in Mexico, including murders, kidnappings, tortures and violent collections of drug debts, at their direction.
The indictments in Chicago allege that in approximately early 2008 Arturo Beltran-Leyva split his alliance with Guzman-Loera, Ismael Zambada-Garcia and the Federation due to various issues, including control of lucrative narcotics trafficking routes into the United States and the loyalty of wholesale narcotics customers, including the alleged leaders of a Chicago distribution cell. The indictments charge that Guzman-Loera and Ismael Zambada-Garcia, together with seven other high-ranking associates, including two of their sons, Alfredo Guzman-Salazar (Guzman-Loera’s son) and Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla (Ismael Zamada-Garcia’s son, who is in custody in Mexico), coordinated their narcotics trafficking activities to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Central and South American countries, through Mexico, and into the United States using various means of transportation, including Boeing 747 cargo aircraft; submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels; container ships; go-fast boats; fishing vessels; buses; rail cars; tractor trailers; and automobiles
Guzman-Loera and Ismael Zambada-Garcia allegedly coordinated their cocaine and heroin smuggling activities to wholesale distributors throughout the United States, including a large distribution cell in Chicago of which 16 individuals were charged in an indictment unsealed today. On average, the Chicago cell allegedly received 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine per month, at times obtaining all or a large portion of that quantity from Guzman-Loera and Ismael Zambada-Garcia and the factions of the Sinaloa Cartel they controlled, while also obtaining a substantial portion of that quantity from the Arturo Beltran-Leyva Cartel. From Chicago, the indictments allege that large quantities of cocaine and heroin were further distributed to customers in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Milwaukee; New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Vancouver, British Columbia; and elsewhere.
Guzman-Loera, Ismael Zambada-Garcia and the factions of the Sinaloa Cartel they controlled allegedly used various means to evade law enforcement and protect their narcotics distribution activities, including obtaining guns and other weapons; bribes; engaging in violence and threats of violence; and intimidating with threats of violence members of law enforcement, rival narcotics traffickers and members of their own drug trafficking organizations. According to the indictment, Guzman-Loera, Ismael Zambada-Garcia and his son, Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, discussed obtaining weapons from the United States and using violence against American and/or Mexican government buildings in retaliation for each country’s enforcement of its narcotics laws and to perpetuate their narcotics trafficking activities.
In one of the indictments unsealed today in Brooklyn, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes is alleged to be the leader of the Juarez Cartel, which operates in the Juarez-El Paso corridor, one of the primary drug smuggling routes along the border between the United States and Mexico running from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. The DEA estimates that approximately 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States comes through Mexico. The Juarez Cartel allegedly received multi-ton cocaine shipments in Mexico from the Colombian Norte Valle Cartel and from the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a Colombian paramilitary organization and a major drug trafficking organization. According to the indictment, the Juarez Cartel maintained its power through the payment of bribes and through numerous acts of violence, including murder.
In another Brooklyn indictment, brothers Luis and Esteban Rodriguez-Olivera are charged with leading Los Gueros, a drug trafficking organization that rose to prominence within the Federation. According to court documents, Los Gueros operated a narcotics supply route that originated in Mexico, stretched into Texas and then branched off to various points, including the New York metropolitan area. Between 1996 and 2008, Los Gueros allegedly imported more than 100,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The DEA estimates that between 2004 and 2006, the organization was responsible for shipping more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine to New York City alone. In January 2006, Mexican authorities seized approximately 5,200 kilograms of the organization’s cocaine destined for the United States.
Tirso Martinez-Sanchez is alleged in one of the Brooklyn indictments to be an organizer and leader of an extensive international narcotics importation, distribution and transportation organization that is responsible for the distribution of multiple tons of cocaine in the United States. Martinez-Sanchez’s organization allegedly imported cocaine into the United States from Mexico through California and Texas, and then transported the cocaine overland to large distribution centers, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. In addition to coordinating the distribution of his own organization’s cocaine, Martinez-Sanchez also allegedly transported and distributed narcotics for members of the Juarez Cartel and the Federation.
The cases in the Eastern District of New York are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Goldbarg, Claire Kedeshian, Bonnie Klapper, Stephen Meyer, Walter Norkin, Patricia Notopoulos and Carolyn Pokorny.
The cases in the Northern District of Illinois are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Shakeshaft, Michael Ferrara, Greg Deis, Lindsay Jenkins, Renai Rodney, Angel Krull and Halley Guren.
The cases were investigated by the DEA, ICE and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, in cooperation with Mexican and Colombian law enforcement authorities. Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Milwaukee, Miami and Houston. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in these cases. The investigative efforts were coordinated with the Special Operations Division, comprised of agents, analysts and attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS); DEA; FBI; ICE; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; and Internal Revenue Service. Certain individuals named in indictments unsealed today have also been charged by other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country and by NDDS.
An indictment is a formal charging document notifying the defendant of the charges. All persons charged in an indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty.