El Chapo Trial: Drug Lord Bribed DEA Agents With Prostitutes, Apartments

An associate of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman bribed Drug Enforcement Administration agents with gifts, apartments and prostitutes to frustrate U.S. efforts against his sprawling criminal empire, according to recent testimony in the drug lord's trial in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

Guzman, 61, is currently on trial in the U.S., facing a 17-count indictment spanning a 25-year period. He has been charged with a combination of crimes in six federal jurisdictions, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

Read More: El Chapo Trial: Who Will Testify, Security, Schedule and Background of Man Behind Sinaloa Drug Cartel​

If found guilty Guzman could face life in prison, as U.S. prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in order to secure his extradition from Mexico in 2017. Numerous former business partners are witnesses in his trial.

On Tuesday, one of Guzman’s business partners—Juan Carlos Ramirez—gave jurors insight into the brutality of Latin America's criminal enterprises, the New York Post reported.

Ramirez said he had ordered at least 150 murders during his time leading the Northern Valley cartel in Colombia, including of a couple and their adult son in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1994, and the 1993 assassination of drug dealer Vladimir Biegelman in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, New York.

Ramirez sold cocaine to Guzman’s Mexican Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990s. He was arrested in 2007 after years on the run, despite undergoing extensive plastic surgery to avoid capture. He was eventually betrayed by the sound of his voice, which was captured on a phone tap and identified by police.

Ramirez, also known as “Chupeta,” said he had helped corrupt DEA agents sent to catch him and his business partners. Ramirez told the court agents were supplied with “prostitutes, gifts, apartments,” through Colombian officials.

GettyImages-1066485472 This combination of undated handout photographs obtained from Brooklyn federal court on November 29, 2018, shows a before (L) and after (R) plastic surgery picture of Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos "Chupeta" Ramirez shown to the jury during the trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. -/AFP/Getty Images

Ramirez told the court he usually killed people for talking about the organization or stealing money and drugs. Asked if he had ordered the execution of a woman—shot four times in the head—who ran one of his drug store houses, he simply replied, “That’s right.”

But the former cartel leader also killed for more personal reasons. He told jurors he ordered “seven or eight” people murdered for trying to kidnap his son, for example.

Ramierz’s detailed records of his dealings provided tantalizing evidence for prosecutors. His ledgers detailed business expenses for murders and DEA bribes. One entry showed he spent $338,776 on one murder.

More than $120 million in cash, famous artworks and a yacht were seized by the U.S. government when he was arrested in Brazil in 2007. He fled to Brazil after a stint in prison in the 1980s, and having undergone plastic surgery and employing a range of disguises ran his empire from a mansion there.

He was eventually extradited to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in a New York court in 2010.

Guzman’s trial began in November and is expected to last about four months. It is taking place under tight security, with jurors and witnesses provided anonymity and armed protection for the duration.

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