Two New Defendants Added to Chicago Sinaloa Indictment

A sixth Superseding Indictment in the Illinois case charging Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia has been unsealed. Two new defendants are named, Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega and Heriberto Zazueto Godoy.

Valencia Ortega was arrested in Nevada in September, 2013. According to a ruling by Judge Matthew Kennelly in case no. 13-cr-720 (document no. 24), the government had received information he would be traveling to Nevada from Mexico, so they quickly put together an indictment charging a single count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine from April, 2013 to November, 2013. The Government hoped that by arresting him on this indictment, he'd agree to cooperate. After his arrest, they told him and his lawyers that if he diddn't cooperate, he'd be added as a defendant in El Chapo's case. This would also conflict out his lawyers, who represent Tomas Arevalo-Renteria in that case.

He declined to cooperate, and the Government followed through on its threat. His lawyers objected, claiming adding him to the Guzman/Zambada-Garcia indictment was unfair retaliation for his refusal to cooperate. [More...]

The judge partly agreed. In the order (Document 24) issued April 14, 2014, Judge Kennelly wrote:

There is some evidence that can be understood to suggest that the government acted as it did in an effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to pressure Valencia into agreeing to cooperate with law enforcement. Specifically, the circumstances arguably suggest that the government held over Valencia's head the prospect of being tried together with Guzman Loera and losing his lawyers due to a conflict of interest that arguably might result from naming Valencia in that case.

But ultimately, he ruled there was no bad faith by the Government. So case 13 cr 720 is dismissed and Valencia is now a defendant in the Guzman/Zambada-Garcia case. (Since Arevalo-Renteria had pleaded guilty and is not cooperating, the conflict issue is avoided.)

The second new defendant is Heriberto Zazueta Godoy. He is alleged to be a Sinaloa cell leader and is charged with drug and money laundering offenses, mostly related to El Chapo and his son, Alfredo Guzman-Salazar. It's not clear if he's been arrested.

Other changes in the new indictment: The two heroin counts pertaining to November 13, 2008 seizures (one involving the Guzman-Loera faction and the other involving the Zambada-Garcia faction) in the Third Superseding Indictment have been changed to eliminate two former co-defendants. One is Juan Guzman-Rocha, El Chapo's nephew, who was killed in 2011, and the other is Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, who seems to have been extradited in May, 2013, but since everything since in his case is sealed, I can't tell whether his lawyer just entered an appearance for him expecting his arrival or whether he actually has appeared in court. He was ordered to be extradited in March, 2013, and then the order was suspended in April, 2013. In May, when his lawyer entered his appearance, he told the media his client's arrival was imminent.

Co-defendant Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez is still set for trial in May.

The cocaine, of course, keeps on flowing. Last week, Colombian police seized ten tons of cocaine. It was headed for Guatamala. Police arrested Hector Coronel Castillo, alias Rincon.

“Coronel Castillo is a Mexican citizen who answered directly to the Sinaloa cartel in that country and oversaw the coordination and purchase of cocaine and coca base from various groups in Colombia,” a police spokesman said, asking not to be identified.

Both the finished product of cocaine and coca base, later to be processed in Mexico, would be shipped by land, sea or air to Guatemala or Mexico and then on to the United States.

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