Monday, February 24, 2014

Wiretaps and Cooperation Lead to Capture of El Chapo

On Saturday morning the world's most wanted criminal surrendered to Mexican and American authorities in the resort city of Mazatlan, Mexico.  Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo, the leader of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel was arrested at 7:00 AM by a team of Mexican marines, aided by agents from the United States.  The arrest took place without resistance.
El Chapo was the focus of both Mexican and American law enforcement for many years.  He had eluded capture since escaping from a Mexican jail 13 years ago.  Attempts at capturing El Chapo repeatedly met with failure.
The story of the successful capture had begun with close cooperation between the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Agency and the Mexican navy.  The Mexican marines and American agents undertook the operation to arrest Guzman several weeks before the capture.  The DEA presented Mexican navy officials with evidence garnered from wiretaps and telephone surveillance.  Moreover, informants filled  in evidentiary details for investigators. 
Beginning approximately one month before Guzman's arrest, law enforcement began a series methodical sweeps through the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan.  The sweeps resulted in arrests and seizures of weapons, armored cars, drugs, and cash. 
Approximately a week before the arrest of Guzman, officials were able to arrest Ismael Zambada, a high ranking associate of Guzman.  Further arrests followed the Zambada capture.  Throughout the course of the arrests, Mexican officials indicated that Zambada was the primary target of the investigation.  The investigative feint worked.
Mexican marines with a small team of Americans comprised of DEA and United States Marshals Service agents comprised the arrest teams.  Initially, investigators raided the home of Guzman's ex-wife on February 20, 2014.  The home had a steel-reinforced door, which the authorities had to batter down.  By the time they had accomplished this, Guzman, who had been in the home, had escaped through a tunnel under the house.
On the evening of Friday, February 21st, law enforcement intercepted a telephone call to Guzman's cellphone and were able to pinpoint his whereabouts as the Miramar building in Mazaltan.  Marines and agents moved through building until they found and arrested Guzman.

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