- US prosecutors are reportedly considering charging ‘El Chapo’ Guzman with the killings of US citizens in Mexico.
- Guzman currently faces a number of charges related to drug trafficking.
- Prosecutors are likely to call a number of drug traffickers and former cartel members to testify against Guzman.
US prosecutors are considering charging former Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman with the killings of six US citizens and a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent, according to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA.
Three former Mexican police officers have told the US Attorney in Los Angeles that they saw Guzman take part in the killings in late 1984 and 1985. One of the officers, Jorge Godoy, who is now a protected witness in the US, told WFAA that Guzman “likes to cut the people.”
The US Attorney in LA declined to comment to WFAA. A spokesman for the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York,where Guzman faces trial, also declined to comment.
Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider that prosecutors were considering adding those charges and “may link them to Chapo Guzman through drug traffickers that may testify” against him.
The killings came over a nine-week period between 1984 and 1985 and were reportedly in response to the DEA and Mexican federal police raiding and destroying the El Bufalo ranch in northern Chihuahua state in fall 1984.
The massive, 1,300-acre ranch’s destruction likely constituted a multibillion-dollar loss for the Guadalajara cartel, then the most powerful in Mexico, and was particularly stinging for Rafael Caro Quintero, then one of the cartel’s leaders.
The first killings came on December 2, 1984, when four Jehovah’s Witness missionaries, two men and two women, knocked on the door of a drug lord. Godoy, who was then also working as a body guard for Ernesto Fonseca, another Guadalajara kingpin, said the missionaries were tortured and the women raped.
They “knocked on the wrong door,” Vigil said, and the traffickers “believed they were informants or DEA agents trying to gather information.”
Godoy told WFAA that Guzman shot the missionaries one by one, letting their bodies fall into an open grave. The bodies have never been recovered.
At the end of January 1985, two US citizens were killed after entering a Guadalajara restaurant where members of the cartel were eating. Godoy said he was guarding the front door when one of the Americans asked to go in.
“I said, ‘It’s closed and please you have to go. Please go,” he told WFAA. The pair was “in wrong place at the wrong time,” Vigil said.
The two began to walk away, but Caro Quintero saw them and ordered them brought inside, Godoy said, adding that he knew the Americans were likely mistaken for US agents.
The cartel members “erroneously assumed that they were DEA agents, so they took them to the back and they stabbed them to death, and the bodies were never recovered,” Vigil said. Godoy claims to have seen Guzman cut one of the captive’s throats and help wrap the bodies and bury them in a park.
On February 7, 1985, Guzman was dispatched to help kidnap Alfredo Zavala, a pilot who flew DEA agent Enrique Camarena to find the cartel’s marijuana fields, according to Godoy. Camarena was abducted the same day, picked up off a Guadalajara street while on his way to meet his wife for lunch.
Camarena and Zavala were found a month later in shallow graves. Both showed signs of torture, and Godoy said he saw Guzman and others “jumping with their knees” on the captives, breaking their ribs.
Camarena’s kidnapping and killing brought intense pressure from the US on Mexican authorities. Caro Quintero and Fonseca were caught before the end of 1985. Guadalajara cartel chief Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, for whom Guzman worked as a driver, remained on the run until 1989. (Caro Quintero, sentenced to 40 years in prison, was released on a technicality in 2013 and was recently added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.)
Guzman is not currently charged with the killing of US citizens.
Sources told WFAA that US prosecutors may have dropped previous murder charges against Guzman because the victims were likely Mexicans killed in Mexico, but they would more able to try Guzman for the killing of US citizens in Mexico.
While the Guadalajara cartel was in power, and as Guzman worked his way up its ranks, it was involved in a lot of homicides, Vigil said.
Both the Guadalajara cartel and the Sinaloa cartel, a successor group led by Guzman, were responsible for the killing of “untold Americans, directly or indirectly,” he added.
“Whether Chapo Guzman was involved or not, it’s anybody’s guess,” Vigil said of the killings prosecutors are considering adding to the case. “But they do have these drug traffickers who are willing to testify.”
The US federal government has said a number of cooperating witnesses, including Colombian drug traffickers, will testify “to prove Guzman’s power” and “astonishing illegal profits.” Through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations, or RICO, Act, prosecutors could link Guzman to the acts of others in his organisation, Vigil said.
US prosecutors are “going to throw the kitchen sink and the entire bathroom at him,” because they can’t afford to lose the case, Vigil said, adding that may mean including “other traffickers whose credibility is not great.”
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