Infamous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was extradited to the US on Thursday, when Mexican authorities turned him over to American investigators upon his arrival at Long Island MacArthur Airport.
The leader of the violent Sinaloa Cartel, who was alleged to have made $14 billion, was taken to a high-security prison in Brooklyn. He pleaded not guilty Friday at Brooklyn federal court to charges of leading a continuing criminal enterprise, participating in an international drug trafficking conspiracy, weapons charges and money laundering.
“Guzman Loera is accused of using violence, including torture and murder, to maintain an iron-fisted grip on the drug trade across the U.S./Mexico border that invaded our community and others across the country,” said Robert Capers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “As a result, Guzman Loera made billions of illicit dollars.”
Prosecutors said the 59-year-old cartel leader oversaw the manufacturing, smuggling and distribution of mass quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana in cities across America since 1989. In addition to ordering hundreds of murders to collect debts, silence witnesses and warn Mexican authorities against charging him, he also oversaw the killing of thousands who were caught in a war with the rival Juarez Cartel from 2007 to ’11, authorities said.
Capers said authorities decided to try El Chapo in New York City following a years-long investigation that turned up about 40 witnesses and strong evidence, including several multi-ton drug seizures related to the case in Brooklyn and on Long Island. The case, if it goes to trial, will detail the drug pipeline from Mexico to the streets of America, he added. But the extradition was somewhat unexpected.
“We weren’t aware it was going to happen, but we were ready,” Capers said of the extradition, which US prosecutors requested of their Mexican counterparts last year. “We planned for it.”
He and other investigators echoed one another in repeating that El Chapo will not escape from prison, as he has repeatedly in Mexico over the years.
The charges against El Chappo were the result of a joint investigation between federal prosecutors in Miami, Brooklyn and the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-drug unit, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies. Additional charges previously filed against him by other federal prosecutors are pending while the investigation is continuing.
Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Florida, dubbed El Chapo “the most notorious criminal of modern times.”