Feb. 12 (UPI) — A federal jury in Brooklyn found Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman guilty Tuesday on murder conspiracy, drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges.
The verdict came after a three-month trial and several days of deliberation. The trial saw former lackeys testify against the leader of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa Cartel.
Jurors convicted Guzman on all 10 criminal counts. He faces life in prison at his sentencing.
Guzman pleaded not guilty in January 2017 to an indictment that covered crimes in New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere in the United States.
Prosecutors said Guzman amassed billions of dollars for smuggling cocaine from Colombia to the United States. Under Guzman’s leadership, the Sinaloa Cartel was responsible for 90 percent of cocaine and heroin in the United States and Europe.
To facilitate that supply chain, prosecutors said Guzman paid millions in bribes to corrupt officials, from the local level all the way up to the federal and foreign governments.
Prosecutors presented thousands of documents and questioned dozens of witnesses, some of whom they said risked their lives to cooperate. The witnesses, in addition to the jurors, remained anonymous throughout the trial.
Criminal complaints against Guzman laid out some of his crimes, including:
— Using tunnels to smuggle drugs for miles under the U.S.-Mexican border.
— Using sheets of plastic to cover the walls of a house with a drain in the floor to get rid of blood.
— Ordering subordinates to carry out killings.
With the conviction, Guzman may have to forfeit some $14 billion.
His trial began in early November with a weeklong jury selection that proved to be problematic. A hiccup with one of the jurors — who was dismissed over anxiety about the trial — delayed the start of opening statements.
Jurors, whose identities were kept secret over concern for their safety, were partially sequestered through the trial. U.S. marshals escorted them daily between their homes and the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
Guzman’s lawyers sought to prove their client did not, in fact, run the Sinaloa Cartel, but took orders from someone else. They sought to discredit witnesses, including cartel members who worked for Guzman, based on their own criminal records.
Guzman escaped from Mexican prisons twice — once in 2001 by hiding in a laundry bin and again in 2015 through a mile-long tunnel that had been dug beneath the shower in his jail cell.
His 2015 escape led to a six-month manhunt that turned deadly when two Mexican marines were killed while patrolling a location where they believed he was hiding. Marines caught up with him in January 2016 in the coastal city of Los Mochis.
Within months of his arrest, Mexican authorities extradited Guzman to New York to face charges.