NEW YORK – Secretly recorded phone calls played Wednesday at the U.S. trial of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman make him sound as if he was enjoying his life as a narco-outlaw.
"Amigo!" a cheerful voice identified as Guzman's says at the start of a 2008 call made by an American drug distributor who has been on the witness stand this week.
"Here at your service," Guzman says, according a government translation of the conversation spoken in Spanish. "You know that."
A jury heard the recordings at a federal trial in Brooklyn where Guzman is facing drug-trafficking charges accusing him of orchestrating a wave of violence to protect his wildly lucrative operation. Since being sent to the U.S. early last year after twice breaking out of Mexican prisons, his lawyers have said he is being framed by a cadre of shady cooperators.
The latest cooperator to testify, Pedro Flores, called Guzman after he agreed to cooperate with Drug Enforcement Administration agents investigating the elusive boss of the Sinaloa cartel, who was hiding out in a mountainous region of Mexico. Flores, who was a fugitive in Mexico at the time, testified that he wanted to help his handlers by getting Guzman on tape discussing a large-scale heroin deal.
"I was working for the DEA, trying to set him up," Flores testified.
After the pair exchange pleasantries on one call, Flores recorded himself asking as a favor whether Guzman could cut the per-kilo price they had originally agreed on by $5,000 to $50,000. Guzman sounds happy to help out.
"I'll pick up the money tomorrow," Guzman says with little hesitation. "That price is fine."
Flores asks Guzman in a brief follow-up call on the same day if he could deliver another large shipment of heroin to replenish a Chicago-based distribution network that Flores and his identical twin brother, Margarito, still controlled from Mexico. Guzman questions why, since it was his understanding that the Flores twins had already received a shipment from another cartel supplier.
"Yes, but what they sent was not good," he responds. "It doesn't compare to what you had."
In the end, Flores told the jury, a kingpin feared far and wide "agreed to my terms."
Associated Press writer Claudia Torrens contributed to this report.