Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, the most notorious drug lord in modern-day history, could be sent to prison for life after a jury in Brooklyn convicted him Tuesday of various charges.
US District Judge Brian Cogan told the jurors they made him “very proud to be an American” after they found the boss of the murderous Sinaloa cartel guilty of all 10 counts against him – including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise – following 34 hours of deliberations over six days.
Guzmán, whom Cogan scheduled for sentencing on June 25, collected nearly $14 billion during a reign that saw him escape from custody not once but twice.
That once put El Chapo (“The Shorty”) on Forbes' Billionaires List.
Whatever the length of his sentence, Guzmán, 61, must serve all of it. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
Guzmán waved and smiled at his wife after the verdict was read, according to multiple reports, which said she smiled back and put her hand to her heart.
"We are obviously disappointed with the jury's verdict in the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera but are respectful of the process and the jury's decision," defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo said. "We were faced with extraordinary and unprecedented obstacles in defending Joaquín.”
US Attorney for Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said the case held deep significance for Americans, Mexicans and others who lost loved ones to addiction or drug-related killings.
"There are those who say the war on drugs is not worth fighting,” Donoghue said. “Those people are wrong."
Jurors heard nearly two and a half months of testimony about killings, torture, widespread Mexican government corruption, gold-plated AK-47s and more.
They also reviewed surveillance photos, text messages and exhibits that included cocaine bricks.
The prosecutors called 56 witnesses, many of them confessed traffickers who cut deals to help reduce their own prison time.
Guzmán’s legal team called a single witness while challenging the government witnesses, whom defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said “lied every day of their…miserable, selfish lives.”
El Chapo became Mexico’s all-time leading drug kingpin following the capture of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén of the Gulf Cartel.
It wasn’t long before he was considered more powerful than the notoriously legendary Pablo Escobar.
The U.S. government variously called Guzmán the "most powerful drug trafficker in the world” and "the most ruthless, dangerous, and feared man on the planet.”
The Sinaloa Cartel smuggled more than 500 tons of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico to America and has been involved in the production, smuggling, and distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, Ecstasy and heroin throughout the U.S. and Europe under El Chapo's reign.
Guzmán was first captured in 1993 in Guatemala.
He was extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Mexico for murder and drug trafficking – then bribed guards at a federal maximum-security prison there and escaped in a laundry cart in 2001.
Five years ago, this month, authorities captured Guzmán in a condo in the Sinaloa resort town of Mazatlán overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
He escaped again in July 2015, this time through a tunnel nearly a mile long that opened at a construction site.
Guzmán remained free for six months before Mexican marines and federal police captured him after a shootout.
He was extradited to the U.S. in January 2017.
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