LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – A longtime Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was arrested Wednesday on accusations he helped smuggle a Mexican national with felony convictions into the United States.
The ICE agent was operating under the orders of a “local organized crime figure with business interests in Mexico,” the U.S. District Attorney’s Office reported Thursday.
Felix Cisneros, 42, of Murrieta, was taken into custody on federal felony charges of aiding and assisting an inadmissible alien to enter the United States.
l. “You will be carrying money, of course. And our weapons.”
“Hey, buddy. I want you to know something,” Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán-Loera said to the veteran helicopter pilot who he nicknamed ‘Tinieblo’ (Twilight). The pilot had just arrived in Sinaloa, Mexico from Miami, to begin flying for Guzmán-Loera.
“I’m all ears, Mr. Guzmán,” answered the pilot. He knew his new boss was no saint, but didn’t know much else.
“Do you recognize me?” inquired Guzmán.
“I’m afraid I don’t, sir,” answered the pilot.
“I’m no little angel,” Guzmán said. “But later I’ll tell you the story of a cardinal of the Catholic Church they assassinated, mistaking him for me.”
WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration’s top agent hasn’t really slept since he got word Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had sneaked out of maximum-security prison in Mexico though a mile-long tunnel that opened beneath his cell’s shower nearly a week ago.
DEA’s deputy administrator Jack Riley said Thursday that the last week has been a flurry of work speaking with his Mexican counterparts and helping direct U.S. efforts to capture one of the world’s most prolific and violent drug lords for the third time in 15 years.
“This guy caused me one of the best days and worst days of my life in a span of a year,” Riley told The Associated Press. “We are doing everything we can to track him down, much like we did a year or so ago when we hooked him.”
Guzman was arrested in February 2014, more than a decade after his last escape from a Mexican prison in 2001.
Before taking over as DEA’s operations chief in Washington last year, Riley spent four years in Chicago tracking Guzman and continuing to build a growing criminal case against the drug lord.
After Guzman’s arrest in February 2014, authorities in Chicago, including Riley, called for his extradition to the United States to face trial on a litany of drug trafficking and other charges.
The Justice Department had not formally requested Guzman’s transfer before Saturday’s brazen escape, but Mexican government officials made it clear after Guzman’s arrest that he would first be tried in their country.
“That is one of the reasons we pushed for extradition,” Riley said. “We were afraid of this. Not that (Mexican authorities) weren’t capable of keeping him — but he’d escaped before.”
Guzman vanished Saturday night through a sophisticated tunnel that opened in the floor of his cell’s shower. Two Mexican lawmakers said Thursday that at least 18 minutes passed before anyone was alerted.
A surveillance video of Guzman’s cell shows him walking to the shower — where there was a blind spot in the security camera’s view — crouching down and then vanishing.
According to internal DEA documents obtained by the AP, U.S. drug agents learned Guzman and his associates were plotting his escape almost immediately after his arrest. The agency did not have information about the weekend escape plan, the documents show.
The warnings were passed on to Mexican authorities, according to a U.S. government official briefed on the case. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the case publicly and spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Mexican authorities have denied they received any warning about possible escape plots.
As the work begins anew to find Guzman, Riley said he has every confidence that U.S. and Mexican officials will be able to capture him again.
“I really do think we’ve got him on the run, he’s looking over his shoulder,” Riley said. “We are going to make it as hard on him as possible.”
Mexican authorities have established checkpoints on major highways around the country, distributed 100,000 photos of Guzman to toll booths and put 10,000 agents from various components of the Mexican federal police on high alert since the escape.
DEA and FBI officials have met with officials in Mexico City and Riley said he has been in near daily contact with his direct counterparts since Guzman’s latest dash from custody.
Guzman’s 2014 downfall was more than a decade in the making. First arrested in Guatemala in 1993, he spent nearly a decade in another maximum-security Mexican prison before escaping, reportedly hidden in a laundry basket.
On the run but still growing his drug smuggling empire, Guzman managed to marry a young beauty queen in a lavish celebration and in 2011 became a father again, to twin daughters. What he likely didn’t know at the time was that DEA agents in 2008 had found the first crack in the security network he had spent years building and perfecting.
A wiretap recorded the boss himself, rumored at the time to hiding anywhere from the mountains of his Pacific Coast home state or the rugged jungles of Guatemala, directly negotiating a heroin deal with Chicago twin brothers who had secretly flipped and become government witnesses.
Six years later, after a series of high-profile arrests of associates, more secret wiretaps and other covert surveillance efforts, the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshal Service and a highly trained and trusted unit of the Mexican Marines tracked Guzman to a series of safe houses in the Mexican city of Culiacan.
After his pursuers missed him in a network of underground tunnels connecting the houses, Guzman was finally found inside a seaside condominium in the resort town of Mazatlan. His wife and young daughters were with him. Not a shot was fired.
Riley said Guzman’s use of cellphones was his undoing in 2014 and likely will be again.
“Clearly that was his Achilles’ heel the first time and I think it can be this time,” Riley said. “This time when we get him, and I tell you we are going to get him, it may have a little different outcome for him.” ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press
This story has been corrected to show that Jack Riley is the DEA’s top agent and deputy administrator.
Associated Press writers Michael Tarm in Chicago and E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.
BADIRAGUATO, Mexico — People living in the hometown of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have heard stories of his benevolence: gifts of medicine for the poor, deliveries of drinking water to storm-stricken towns. But finding anyone who’s actually received or even seen such a gift is another matter.
In Badiraguato, the small mountain town that is part of Guzman’s rags-to-crime riches mythology, none of the two dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press could point out evidence of his legendary largesse.
“I don’t see a single building producing jobs, a single piece of public works, a soccer field, a sewer, a school, water systems, a clinic or hospital, not a single one that you can say was built by drug traffickers or their money,” Mayor Mario Valenzuela said.
If Guzman or his cartel had invested in their hometowns, he said, “they’d look different: They would have paved roads or drainage systems, but they don’t.”
Guzman’s escape on July 11 from a prison near Mexico City has focused attention again on Badiraguato, the county seat of a township that includes the hamlet of La Tuna, where El Chapo’s mother still lives.
The roads to La Tuna are still washed-out dirt tracks, and Badiraguato itself has none of the flashy accoutrements of money — luxury car dealerships, palatial mausoleums, acres of fancy, gated communities of new homes, or dozens of street money-changers offering cheap dollars — that are abundant in Culiacan, the state capital, 1 1/2 hours away.
The town’s big projects include a new balcony for the town hall that looks out over the sleepy square dominated by a 19th-century church, where residents seek shade from the punishing Sinaloa sun.
Tucked into the foothills where the coastal stretches of flat corn and tomato fields meet the imposing mountains of the Sierra Madre, Badiraguato remains mired in poverty, Valenzuela acknowledges that many of the township’s residents make a living growing marijuana or opium poppies.
Guzman grew up here, the son of a poor farmer. His rise as a crime boss has been surrounded by mythology, a Hollywood version of an old-school Mafioso — ruthless, but yet honourable. Songs have been written in his honour and some locals extol him as a Robin Hood-type figure who is careful to leave innocents out of his deadly score-settlings.
“Chapo Guzman isn’t violent,” Valenzuela said about a man accused of hundreds of murders. “He doesn’t shoot it out with the government.”
That’s unlike the reputation of the New Generation Jalisco cartel to the south, which is alleged to have brought down a military helicopter May 1 with a rocket-propelled missile.
Or the Zetas, who’ve fueled their notoriety in central Mexico with grisly beheadings and the hanging of bodies across public highways. Or Guerreros Unidos, the cartel alleged to have killed 43 college students last fall.
For many who live in the state that gives name to Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, he is seen as a lesser evil.
Gabriel, a civil engineer, returned home recently to Culiacan after a year and a half working on road projects in the central state of Zacatecas, which is controlled by Mexico’s bloodiest cartel, the Zetas. There, he said, gunmen pulled him over and demanded he either pay protection money or get out of town.
“They are worse. They are indiscriminate. They’ll kill seven people just to get the one they want,” he said. The Sinaloa cartel, he said, leaves ordinary people alone, “there is a certain respect.”
Still, the man in his 30s wouldn’t give his last name for fear of reprisals.
Badiraguato is not immune to violence. The township of 30,000 regularly reports a homicide rate at least five times the national average. And while Sinaloa’s population is less than that of 13 other states and the federal district, it consistently ranks among the deadliest five or six states in terms of homicides.
So far this year, there are more killings here than in Michoacan or Tamaulipas, two states often in the headlines for warring cartels, vigilante justice, beheadings and daytime shootouts.
Violence, threats and fear in Sinaloa have displaced poor farming families, with hundreds fleeing the mountainous township of Sinaloa de Leyva over the last five years.
Dozens of families left the village of Ocurahui after drug gangs, particularly the Sinaloa cartel, pressured local farmers to plant opium poppies in order to counter falling prices for marijuana. Residents who didn’t want to grow drug crops faced kidnappings or even death.
Many of them are barely hanging on as refugees without homes or jobs, living on the fringes of the Sinaloa cities of Surutato, Guamuchil and Culiacan.
“We came with only what we could grab, or what we wearing,” said Mauro Diaz, 20, an Ocurahui resident who lives as a squatter in one of a half-dozen tiny abandoned cinderblock houses on the outskirts of Guamuchil.
Diaz ekes out a living as an assistant bricklayer, staying with his girlfriend in one bare room with a mattress on the floor and water leaking from the roof. He largely has given up hope of returning to the pine-covered hills of his village.
“Why return if it’s only going to get us into trouble, if in a little while it gets bad again and they exile us again?” Diaz said.
Yet, the mythology surrounding Guzman lives on.
Lucero Uriarte, a high-school student in Badiraguato, said of the drug lord: “He has helped a lot of people — more than anyone else, the poor — because he knows what they’re going through.”
Mexico’s fugitive drug lord and his supporters hit back after Donald Trump threatens to “kick ass”
Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the fugitive Mexican drug lord, appeared on Monday night to be taunting authorities and threatening US presidential hopeful Donald Trump while on the run.
The country’s most notorious cartel leader broke out of a maximum-security jail at the weekend in a Hollywood-style escape that saw him scurrying down an elaborate, mile-long tunnel dug under his cell.
Guzman and his supporters wasted no time lambasting Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto as a “coward” but reserved particular ire for Mr Trump, who has accused Mexico of sending rapists and criminals to America.
A post riddled with obscenities on a Twitter account, reportedly run by the drug lord’s son Ivan, said the billionaire businessman would be made to “swallow his words”.
That was immediately followed by a post suggesting someone would be killed, although it was not clear if that referred to Mr Trump.Associates who had betrayed Guzman were also targeted.
He posted a message to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto saying: ”And you @EPN, don’t call me a delinquent because I give people work unlike you you cowardly politician.’
It could not be determined who had made the comments but the account went on to proclaim that “no cage could hold” El Chapo.
On a separate account linked to Ivan Guzman he had appeared to foretell his father’s escape a week ago, saying:
“Good things come to those who wait.”
Guzman, who is believed to be 58, was widely considered the world’s richest and most powerful drug trafficker before his capture, last year, and cultivated a Robin Hood image among his followers as he ruled over the Sinaloa cartel.
After he escaped guards at Altiplano prison, 55 miles west of Mexico City, entered his cell and found a hole 10 metres deep with a ladder.
It led to a tunnel a mile long and 1.7 metres high, which allowed the diminutive drug lord to walk upright to freedom.
Mr Trump had seized on the prison escape to back up his calls for a wall between the two countries, and said it proved the extent of corruption in Mexico.
He added: “Can you envision Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton negotiating with El Chapo…Trump, however, would kick his ass!”
The entrepreneur’s poll numbers have been rising since last month when he began controversially attacking Mexican illegal immigrants as the cause of problems in the US.
He appeared to be unfazed after being targeted by Guzman and his supporters on social media.
Mr Trump responded: “El Chapo and the Mexican drug cartels use the border unimpeded like it was a vacuum cleaner, sucking drugs and death right into the US. We get the killers, drugs and crime, they get the money.”
But Mr Trump said he had contacted the FBI to investigate the apparent threat.
The property mogul told TMZ: “I’m fighting for much more than myself. I’m fighting for the future of our country which is being overrun by criminals. You can’t be intimidated. It’s too important.”
The escape was a major embarrassment for Mr Pena Nieto.Speaking on a visit to France, he called it “an affront to the state”.
Guatemala launched an operation to secure its border, which Guzman fled across once before.
Mexican prosecutors began questioning 30 prison employees, including the warden, amid suspicions of an inside job.
Mike Vigil, a retired US Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief, said if Guzman was not captured with two days of his escape he may never be found.”
“If he is able to make his way to Sinaloa, his native state, and gets into that mountainous range, it’s going to be very difficult to capture him because he enjoys the protection of local villagers.”
Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said: “El Chapo surely planned this from the time he was jailed and had very large internal and external support to escape.
“There certainly was corruption inside and outside the prison. It was a film-like escape.”
Mexican authorities have launched a manhunt to find drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, who has broken out of prison again, the country’s National Security Commission said Sunday.
Guards at the Altiplano Federal Prison discovered during a routine check on Saturday that Guzman, known as “El Chapo,” was missing, a statement from the commission said.
Guzman escaped through a hole in his cell that led to a lighted and ventilated tunnel nearly a mile long, Mexico National Security spokesman Monte Alejandro Rubido García confirmed Sunday morning at a press conference in Mexico City.
Guzman is the storied boss of one of the world’s most powerful and deadly drug trafficking operations.
He escaped in 2001 from a high-security prison in a laundry cart and was not apprehended again until 2014, when he was arrested at a Mexican beach resort.
‘The world’s most powerful drug lord’
Guzman heads the Sinaloa Cartel, which the U.S. Justice Department describes as “one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels.” It says Guzman was “considered the world’s most powerful drug lord until his arrest in Mexico in February 2014.”
“The Sinaloa Cartel moves drugs by land, air, and sea, including cargo aircraft, private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, supply vessels, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, trucks, automobiles, and private and commercial interstate and foreign carriers,” the Justice Department said earlier this year.
The trafficking network keeps U.S. drug agents busy. In January, the Justice Department unsealed indictments naming 60 members of the cartel, including Guzman’s son, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman-Salazar, aka “El Chapito.”
The main indictment said the cartel imported cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, other drugs and the chemicals necessary to process methamphetamine into Mexico from various countries, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California said in a news release.
The drugs were then smuggled into San Diego for distribution throughout the United States, the statement said, adding that money was then laundered through a variety of means.
In just one phase of the investigation, which the Justice Department said spanned eight countries and a dozen U.S. states, authorities seized more than 1,400 pounds of methamphetamine, almost 3,000 pounds of cocaine, 12.2 tons of marijuana and 5,500 oxycodone pills, along with $14.1 million.
In Mexico, the diminutive Guzman became a larger-than-life figure as he eluded authorities while expanding a drug empire that spanned the world. His life story became the topic of best-selling books and the subject of adoring songs known as narcocorridos.
In the United States, he is wanted on multiple federal drug trafficking and organized crime charges.
His nickname, which means “Shorty,” matches his 5-foot-6-inch frame.
The statement from the National Security Commission said that, at 8:52 p.m. Saturday, surveillance cameras at the Altiplano federal prison saw Guzman approaching a shower area in which prisoners also wash their belongings.
When Guzman was not seen again for some time, officials checked his cell, found it empty, and issued an alert.
Altiplano is a maximum security prison in south central Mexico.
Officials not only launched a manhunt, they also closed Toluca International Airport, a 45-minute drive away.