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El Chapo’s son pleads not guilty to US drug, money laundering charges

CHICAGO — Ovidio Guzmán López, son of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, pleaded not guilty Monday in Chicago to U.S. drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges in his first court appearance since his extradition from Mexico to the United States. .

Guzmán López was extradited Friday, five months after U.S. prosecutors unsealed numerous indictments against him and his brothers, known collectively as the “Chapitos.” The indictments allege that after their father was extradited and given a life sentence in the United States in 2019, the brothers shifted the cartel increasingly toward synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and the powerful opioid fentanyl. .

During Monday’s 15-minute interrogation, before a larger-than-usual security contingent inside the courtroom, Guzmán López pleaded not guilty through an interpreter. He appeared before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, wearing an orange jumpsuit and matching orange slippers, his legs shackled at the ankles.

The short, thin 33-year-old, whose nickname is “the mouse,” leaned forward, answering the judge’s questions gently and politely, presenting an image that stood in stark contrast to the cartel’s reputation for extreme violence that he would have helped lead.

His arrest by Mexican security forces in January in Culiacan – the capital of Sinaloa state, the cartel’s namesake – sparked violence that left 30 people dead, including 10 military personnel. The Mexican military used Black Hawk gunships against the cartel’s truck-mounted .50-caliber machine guns. Cartel gunmen struck two military planes, forcing them to land, and sent gunmen to the city’s airport, where military and civilian planes were hit by gunfire.

Three years earlier, the government had attempted to capture him, but aborted the operation after similar violence.

U.S. indictments against the brothers, unsealed in April, said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price. The brothers denied the allegations in a letter.

“We have never produced, manufactured or marketed fentanyl or any of its derivatives,” the letter states. “We are victims of persecution and have been made scapegoats. »

When Coleman asked Guzmán López on Monday if he was taking medication, he said yes — for depression, anxiety and stomach aches — but that it didn’t hinder his ability to understand the procedure.

Some of the five charges against Guzmán López carry maximum life sentences, including conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to distribute drugs. A conviction on any of the counts, engaging in an illegal enterprise as a director, carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Coleman set November 17 as the next court date for Guzmán López.

Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement Friday that Guzmán López’s extradition “reflects the importance of ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments in the fight against narcotics and drug trafficking.” ‘other vital challenges’. Sherwood-Randall has made several visits to Mexico this year to meet with President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, most recently last month.

López Obrador has described his country as a transit point for fentanyl precursors from China to the United States, despite claims by the U.S. government and his own military about production in Mexico.


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