By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
The U.S. Justice Department has come at the Sinaloa Cartel hard. In “a clear message to the Chapitos”, authorities charged the sons of notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on Friday with trafficking fentanyl and other narcotics, money laundering, and gun crimes.
With the opioid crisis currently burning through the U.S., the Justice Department has used it as ammunition to target the Sinaloa Cartel. Calling it “the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made clear where the focus of the indictment lay. This operation, he says, is “run by the Sinaloa Cartel, and fueled by Chinese precursor chemical and pharmaceutical companies”.
The Sinaloa Cartel is one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world and is one of the biggest traffickers of narcotics into the United States. Its members and affiliates obtain precursor chemicals – largely from China – for the production of synthetic drugs, manufacture drugs in Mexico, move those drugs into the United States, and collect, launder, and transfer the proceeds of drug trafficking.
Once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and, following his arrest and imprisonment, by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, the Sinaloa Cartel’s members and associates smuggled significant quantities of drugs through Mexico and into the United States.
An influential faction within the Sinaloa Cartel is comprised of the sons of “El Chapo”, collectively known as the Chapitos. They are: Ivan Guzman Salazar, 40, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 37, Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 36, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 33.
Ovidio Guzman Lopez is currently behind bars in Mexico after being arrested on January 5 of this year. He remains locked up pending his extradition to the United States.
Rise of Los Chapitos
Following Guzman Loera’s arrest in January 2016 and extradition to the United States in January 2017, the Chapitos allegedly assumed their father’s former role as leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, along with Zambada Garcia and Damaso “Licenciado” Lopez Nunez. The Chapitos subsequently amassed greater control over the Sinaloa Cartel by allegedly threatening and causing violence against Lopez Nunez, his family, and his associates and, as a result, became principal leaders and drug traffickers within the Sinaloa Cartel.
The indictments unsealed Friday demonstrate that the Sinaloa Cartel has been engaged in drug trafficking activities into the United States, and violence, spanning over a decade and a half. The Chapitos are alleged to have repeatedly and consistently transported lethal amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
They allegedly used 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, automobiles, and private and commercial interstate and foreign carriers to transport their drugs and precursor chemicals.
A network of couriers, tunnels, and stash houses throughout Mexico and the United States was used to further their drug trafficking activities. The Chapitos allegedly used these networks to import the drugs into the United States.
U.S. authorities offers rewards of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Ivan Guzman Salazar, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, and up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Joaquin Guzman Lopez.
The dangers of fentanyl
As more and more Americans got hooked on their prescription pain killers, they quickly went looking for cheaper options to get their fix. Heroin and fentanyl became the drugs of choice. Mexican drug cartels were happy to “fill their prescriptions”.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is over 50 times more potent than heroin. It is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, and it has fueled the opioid epidemic that has been ravaging families and communities across the United States for approximately the past eight years. Between 2019 and 2021, fatal overdoses increased by approximately 94%, with an estimated 196 Americans dying each day from fentanyl.
“The Chapitos pioneered the manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl – the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced – flooded it into the United States for the past eight years and killed hundreds of thousands of Americans,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Over the last year and a half, the DEA proactively infiltrated the Sinaloa Cartel and the Chapitos network, obtained unprecedented access to the organization’s highest levels, and followed them across the world.
Besides the Chapitos, several of their henchmen were also charged. Among them their chief sicario: 31-year-old Nestor Isidro Perez Salas. Known as “Nini”, he is the leader of the “Ninis”, a violent group charged with providing security for the Chapitos.
From at least 2012 until February 2021, Perez Salas allegedly conspired to distribute and manufacture cocaine and methamphetamine for unlawful importation into the United States, used a firearm in furtherance of the alleged drug trafficking offense, and killed, attempted to kill, threatened, and caused bodily injury to another to intimidate a government witness and informant.
Milgram: “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.”
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