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Sinaloa Cartel Co-Leader Dies of Heart Attack

Juan José Esparraoza Moreno,"El Azul", the veteran narco-trafficker and co-leader of the Sinaloa cartel along with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia, has reportedly died of a heart attack while convalescing from an accident he had about two weeks ago in which his vertebrae was injured. He was 65.

"El Azul" spent 40 years in the drug business, first with the Guadalajara cartel, then the Juarez cartel (where at one point he was second to Amado Carrillo Fuentes,aka Senor de los Cielos) before teaming up with El Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia as leaders of the Sinaloa Federation. [More...]

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Zambada-Niebla's Plea Agreement

The Government today released the plea agreement of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia, in his Illinois case. The agreement was signed a year ago. The press release is here.

The plea agreement is here. He's cooperating, so what would otherwise be a life sentence will be less than that. He's also agreeing to a forfeiture of more than $1 billion.

His guidelines are so high -- offense level 51 (the sentencing table only goes up to level 43) -- that even with a Criminal History Category of I (meaning no significant priors), his guidelines are life in prison (not even 30 to life, or any range at all - just life.)

Since he's been cooperating and will continue to cooperate as requested, the Government anticipates moving for a reduction to a lesser sentence. It also sounds like he's in or will be in the witness protection program, since the agreement says the Government will recommend he and his family be allowed to stay in the U.S. at the end of his sentence. [More...]

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Sloppy Reporting Torpedoes Vasquez-Hernandez Plea

On Feb. 26, Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez announced in court he would plead guilty without a plea agreement in the Chicago case in which Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Jesus Vicente Zambada-Garcia are co-defendants. In court yesterday, his lawyer announced he had changed his mind and wants to go to trial in May after all.

Why? A local ABC News affiliate reporter named Chuck Goudie had erroneously reported on TV that Vasquez-Hernandez had turned against Chapo. The inmates at the jail saw it and word spread to Mexico, where VH's wife and children live. Vasquez Herandez would rather go to trial than potentially put their lives in jeopardy.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Shakeshaft called Goudie’s error, “an unfortunate piece of journalism.”

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