For months, the FBI listened as Mexico’s infamous drug kingpin allegedly trafficked drugs and arranged assassinations. Here’s how.
A pivotal moment in the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the two-time prison escapee and alleged kingpin of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa cartel, came when prosecutors played for the jury a phone call between Guzmán and a cartel operative nicknamed Gato. Guzmán, federal prosecutors allege, is overheard in the call directing a cartel member to bribe a commander in the Mexican Federal Police.
“Is he receiving the monthly payment?” Guzmán asks. Gato confirms the cartel is sending the officer regular bribes, then hands the phone over to the “federale” himself, who confirms the payment and pledges his loyalty.
Guzmán is facing charges of money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and murder stemming from his time allegedly running an empire that funneled drugs and guns throughout South America and between the U.S. and Mexico. In court, federal prosecutors have played multiple calls from Guzmán: asking for updates, ordering and moving shipments, haggling over the price of kilos, and praising or reprimanding his operatives as they carry out his commands. (“Take it easy with the police,” he scolds Iván “El Cholo” Cruz, the cartel’s top assassin, in one recorded call. “Well, you taught us to be a wolf,” Cruz replies.)