Bloomberg — A once-powerful Mexican official who oversaw his nation’s war against drugs collected more than $14 million for helping Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman intercept a rival gang’s cocaine shipment, a cartel security chief told a New York jury.
Genaro Garcia Luna, is on trial in federal court in Brooklyn, accused of secretly partnering with Guzman’s deadly Sinaloa cartel. The US alleges Garcia Luna, who was Mexico’s head of security from 2006 to 2012, secretly collected tens of millions of dollars for helping the group funnel tons of drugs into the US from Mexico while holding himself out as a drug-fighting “hero.”
Sergio Villareal Barragan, a former Mexican federal police officer who went to work for the cartel, testified Monday that it paid Garcia Luna $1 million to $1.5 million a month. Barragan, who’s pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and is cooperating with US authorities, said Garcia Luna allowed the gang to participate in government drug raids on rivals, with gang members wearing federal police uniforms and getting to take the drugs that were seized.
In one incident in the early 2000s, Barragan said he intercepted a rival Mexican drug organization’s two-ton cocaine shipment. Shortly after the gang moved the drugs to a warehouse, Barragan said Garcia Luna arrived along with Arturo Beltran and other top cartel bosses.
The organization and Garcia Luna had an agreement to divide drug profits evenly, Barragan said, with the cartel keeping the drugs and Garcia Luna getting his share in cash. For the two-ton shipment, Barragan said Garcia Luna got between $14 million to $16 million in cardboard boxes stuffed with $100 bills.
“There were so many boxes, they didn’t fit in their SUV,” said Barragan, who was the first prosecution witness to testify in the trial. The cartel had to lend Garcia Luna another vehicle, he said. Meanwhile the cocaine, “ended up in the United States,” Barragan told jurors.
Cesar de Castro, Garcia Luna’s lawyer, told the jurors in opening statements Monday his client was innocent and said the cartel members and former Mexican officials who will testify for the US wanted “revenge” against his client because of his war on drugs.
De Castro showed jurors photos of Garcia Luna when he was Mexico’s security force standing with US officials, including then-President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
‘Bury’ the Man
“Their case is based on rumors and speculation, the testimony of killers and kidnappers and some of the worst criminals in the world,” de Castro said. “This is a million-dollar industry,” he said. “What better revenge against your common enemy but to bury the man who led the war against the cartel?”
Garcia Luna is being held without bail at a federal jail in Brooklyn after a US judge ruled he poses both a danger to the community and a flight risk.
If convicted of the most serious charge of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, Garcia Luna faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a potential life term.
Meanwhile, Guzman is serving a life sentence in the US after a 2019 trial conviction in Brooklyn.
The case is US v. Garcia Luna, 19-cr-576, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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