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Son of El Chapo Extradited to Chicago to Face Federal Drug Charges

U.S.Son of El Chapo Extradited to Chicago to Face Federal Drug Charges

Ovidio Guzmán López, one of four sons of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord best known as El Chapo, was extradited to Chicago on Friday to face trial on a sprawling set of federal drug charges, according to his lawyer and American officials.

The extradition came a little more than nine months after Mr. Guzmán López was arrested by the Mexican authorities in Culiacán, a city in northwestern Mexico that has long been the home base of the Sinaloa drug cartel, the criminal organization his father helped bring to prominence. It also came nearly four years after Mr. Guzmán López’s calamitous first arrest, which prompted a bloody siege of Culiacán by cartel gunmen that was so destructive the authorities were ultimately forced to let him go.

After the elder Mr. Guzmán was convicted at a landmark trial in Brooklyn in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison, investigators in the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations redoubled their attention on his four sons, who inherited portions of their father’s fractured empire. Ultimately, the sons — known collectively as Los Chapitos — were charged in a series of competing indictments in Washington, Chicago and New York.

The case against Mr. Guzmán López in Chicago, where he will be tried, drew on the work of investigators from that city as well as from Washington and San Diego, and incorporated a vast trove of evidence from a stable of cooperating witnesses. The 40-page indictment against him and his brothers — Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Joaquín Guzmán López — takes a sweeping look at drug sales and violent crimes reaching back, in some instances, to 2008.

Ovidio Guzmán López is expected to appear in Federal District Court in Chicago on Monday. He will be represented in the case by Jeffrey Lichtman, a lawyer who also represented his father.

The extradition of Mr. Guzmán López, who landed in Chicago on Friday night, is a rare success in the troubled attempts to prosecute Los Chapitos. The interagency rivalries that resulted in multiple indictments being filed against him and his brothers also led to more serious consequences, including a missed opportunity last year to capture Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa.

The fact that Mr. Guzmán López will be tried in Chicago was a loss in particular for prosecutors in New York, who filed sweeping charges against him and his brothers in April focused on their efforts to traffic the deadly drug fentanyl across the border. Now that Mr. Guzmán López will be prosecuted in Chicago, it remains unclear what will happen to the New York indictment, which offered a panoramic view of how fentanyl was created, transported and ultimately sold on the streets of American cities.

Prosecutors in Chicago say that after El Chapo was arrested in Mexico in 2016 and extradited to New York the following year, Mr. Guzmán López and his brothers assumed his leadership position in the cartel along with two of their father’s partners: Ismael Zambada García and Dámaso López Núñez. Mr. López Núñez was arrested in 2017 and later testified against El Chapo at his trial in Brooklyn. Mr. Zambada, now in his 70s, remains at large in Mexico.

The indictment in Chicago accuses Mr. Guzmán López of acting as a “logistical coordinator” for the cartel, helping to oversee large shipments of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. The indictment also says he helped move drug proceeds from American consumers to be transferred to — and laundered in — Mexico.

Still, it was far from certain that the extradition of Mr. Guzmán López, long known as the least accomplished of El Chapo’s sons, would have any meaningful effect on the cartel’s activities. At best, it could help put to rest the painful debacle of his failed first arrest, which one security analyst described at the time as “a bad Netflix show.”

El Chapo and his sons are not the only members of the Guzmán family to face scrutiny from federal investigators. The elder Mr. Guzmán’s most recent wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was charged in 2021 with helping him run his drug organization and with plotting to break him out of prison after he was captured in 2014.

Ms. Coronel later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. She was recently released from custody.


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