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The man known as the godfather of the illegal drug world and who twice escaped Mexican prisons had a court date Friday before a judge in Brooklyn to face a raft of federal charges.
Justice Department officials had scrambled to respond to Mexico's last-minute action in sending El Chapo to the United States for trial.
Why the Renewed Interest?
The U.S. had sought his extradition for two years, and rumors that he might be turned over to American authorities came and went over the summer. Then suddenly Thursday evening Mexican authorities announced that his legal appeals were exhausted and he was on his way aboard a Mexican jet.
Mexico decided to deliver El Chapo — Joaquin Guzman Loera — instead of allowing the U.S. to pick him up and bring him here to face a raft of federal charges. Some US officials said Mexico was eager to get him to the U.S. before the Trump administration took office. That goal was met, with just over 14 hours to spare.
What Are His Charges?
He faces federal charges filed in Brooklyn accusing him and his Sinaloa Cartel of importing more than 200 metric tons of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamines, and marijuana.
The U.S. was also seeking to recover $14 billion in cash that investigators say the cartel smuggled from the US. The charges said he directed assassins to kill thousands of drug trafficking competitors between 2007 and 2011.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said the Sinaloa Carl used airplanes, boats, and submarines to bring the drugs into ports it controlled in Mexico. From there, they say, it was shipped across the border to distribution centers in the United States.
What Kind of Penalties Might He Face?
If convicted, Guzman Loera, who is 59, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Justice Department officials said the US agreed not to seek the death penalty as part of the negotiations with the Mexican government to secure his extradition.
"Guzman's story is not one of a do-gooder or a Robin Hood or even one of a famous escape artist," said Robert Capers, Brooklyn's US Attorney.
"Guzman's destructive and murderous rise as an international narcotics trafficker is akin to a small cancerous tumor that metastasized and grew into a full-blown scourge that for decades littered the streets of Mexico with the casualties of violent drug wars over turf."
Charges against El Chapo were filed in several states, including California, Florida, and Illinois. A crime commission in Chicago declared him the first Public Enemy Number One since Al Capone.
But Capers said federal prosecutors decided Brooklyn was the best place to charge and try him based on the number of witnesses available, among other factors.