“El Chapo” aide known as “The Engineer” pleads guilty to U.S. drug charges
A man considered one of the chief aides to convicted drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman pleaded guilty Friday in Chicago federal court to distributing more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and more than 30 kilograms of heroin.
Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, 51, known as “The Engineer,” faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a possible life sentence.
During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, Sarabia said through an interpreter that he had “always made a living as a cattle rancher,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Sarabia was extradited to face charges in June 2020. His sentencing is set for July 7.
He was originally charged along with Guzman and others in a sweeping 2009 indictment in Chicago. Guzman wound up being prosecuted in New York and is now serving a life prison sentence.
Sarabia’s guilty plea comes just days after Mexico’s president said that he would consider a request by Guzman to return from the United States to complete his sentence on humanitarian grounds. The message from El Chapo was described as an “SOS” by one of his attorneys.
The Sinaloa cartel founder has appealed to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for help due to alleged “psychological torment” that Guzman says he is suffering in a U.S. prison.
“We’re going to review it (the plea),” Lopez Obrador told reporters.
It was unclear if Mexico had the power to grant the request, “but the door must always be left open when it comes to human rights,” he added.
El Chapo is serving his life sentence in a maximum security prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2019 of charges including drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons-related offenses.
He is incarcerated at the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, which holds a number of high-profile inmates, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols. The facility is so secure, so remote and so austere that it has been called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
According to one of his lawyers, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, Guzman is unhappy with the harsh prison conditions including isolation and a lack of sunlight.
One of El Chapo’s sons, Ovidio Guzman, was arrested by Mexican security forces this month in an operation that left 29 people dead and sparked a dramatic shootout at an airport in the city of Culiacan.
The U.S. Department of State had been offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Ovidio Guzmán-López.
AFP contributed to this report.
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