EL PASO, Texas – Federal officials unsealed a new federal indictment Tuesday against Mexico's most-wanted drug boss Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as "El Chapo," leader of the Sinaloa cartel and one of the world's richest men.
The 14-count indictment was returned April 11, but federal officials announced it Tuesday in El Paso. The 28-page indictment names Guzman and "co-leader of the cartel" Ismael Zambada Garcia, along with 22 other men. It alleges they were involved in the operations and management of the cartel, which they say has moved thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. and used the profits to wage war against their rivals and the Mexican government.
The indictment targets the infrastructure of the Sinaloa Cartel, officials said. Although Guzman and Zambada have been indicted elsewhere in the U.S., this indictment focuses on their operations in the El Paso area, Ciudad Juarez and the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
"There are several assassins and hit-squad leaders, this is a blow to their infrastructure" said Joseph Arabit, special agent in charge of the El Paso division of DEA.
The indictment details the cell structure of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chihuahua and names their top lieutenants and several of their alleged assassins. Authorities said a number of those indicted are in Mexican custody and that they will seek their extradition but could not specify which members are currently detained. One of those indicted is cartel lieutenant Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, arrested in Mexico last February.
"This indictment has been years in the making, the focus is to dismantle the cartel by focusing on their upper echelon," said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Division Mark Morgan.
Morgan said federal agents started working on the indictment back in 2000, at the time when Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison.
Authorities say the Sinaloa cartel's efforts in recent years to control lucrative smuggling routes through Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, have unleashed waves of violence.
The U.S. has previously offered a $5 million reward leading to Guzman's capture.
This was not Guzman's first U.S. indictment. He was previously indicted in, Arizona, San Diego and he and Zambada Garcia aka "Mayo," both named in the El Paso indictment, were also indicted previously in Chicago and Brooklyn. This latest indictment includes two incidents in which U.S. residents were killed on cartel orders of Torres Marrufo.
Torres Marrufo allegedly coordinated cocaine and marijuana shipments through Juarez to the U.S., according to the indictment. In September 2009, he ordered a team to kidnap someone in Horizon City, Texas, who had lost a 670-pound load of marijuana to law enforcement in Sierra Blanca. The person was taken to Juarez, tortured and killed. His mutilated body was found later in Juarez.
In May 2010, Torres Marrufo had a groom kidnapped from his wedding in Juarez along with his brother and uncle, according to the indictment. The three were tortured and killed. Police found their bodies days later in the bed of a pickup in Juarez. A fourth person was killed in the kidnapping.
If convicted, the defendants face sentences of up to life in a federal prison. Both Guzman and Zambada Garcia are charged with at least one count of murder that could result in the death penalty.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in McAllen, Texas contributed to this report.