Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ arrives in Brooklyn to face judge
(NewYork Daily News) Welcome to Brooklyn, El Chapo — you’re going to stay a while.
A half-dozen federal agents carrying assault weapons flanked the entrance to the Brooklyn Federal courthouse Friday as notorious 59-year-old drug czar and escape artist Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman Loera prepared to be arraigned for a laundry list of crimes as the head of the Sinaloa cartel.
The agents were joined by dozens of NYPD cops, who formed a protective ring around the Cadman Plaza West courthouse.
At one point Friday morning, a helicopter flyover was ordered over the federal courthouse following a report that someone was on the roof, sources said. The report was unfounded.
“We can assure you there will not be any tunnel being built from his bathroom. This is a good day in American Justice,” Angel Melendez of the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration Customs Enforcement said, referencing Guzman’s 2015 escape from Mexican prison.
“I can’t remember the last time we had security like this,” said one federal court officer, who wished not to be named.
All the security was put together rather quickly — federal authorities did not know Guzman was coming to the U.S. until yesterday.
“We knew he was coming, we just didn’t know when,” said Florida U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer. “We were notified yesterday, but this was always in process.”
The added protection at Brooklyn federal court was there for good reason. The wily Guzman is known for his Houdini-like escapes from Mexican prisons.
With charges that include 12 murder conspiracies, drug trafficking and money laundering hanging over his head, federal authorities want to make sure that he stays put.
“This case involves offenses for which there is a presumption that no combination of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance or the safety of the community,” court documents note. “Unless Guzman is incarcerated under the strictest security arrangements, the risk of his continued criminal activity is certain.”
U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said that by pumping more than 200 tons of cocaine and methamphetamines into the U.S., Guzman fueled the drug epidemics of the 1980s and 1990s that “caused the misery of millions of American families.”
“He’s not a do-gooder or a Robin Hood who made great escapes,” said Capers. He’s destructive… murderous. He was known for carrying around a gold-plated AK-47.”
“In short, he’s known for a life of crime, violence and destruction,” Capers said. “That’s who El Chapo Guzman is.”
Melendez called Guzman the “most notorious criminal of all time.”
“Last night I was on the tarmac as he came off the plane,” Melendez said. “You look into his eyes, you see surprise, you see shock and to a certain extent you see fear. He’s about to face American justice.”
Earlier Friday, a convoy of trucks with sirens carrying Guzman pulled out of the Manhattan Correctional Center and headed to Brooklyn.
Guzman arrived at the Manhattan complex around 11 p.m. Thursday after landing at Long Island MacArthur Airport on a flight from Ciudad Juarez, sources told the Daily News.
Guzman’s lawyer in Mexico filed a complaint early Friday with authorities that his due process rights were violated in the extradition.
The notorious Sinaloa cartel head had been fighting his extradition for more than a year. The U.S. Justice Department has been working with Mexican authorities to get him north of the border to face charges.
Federal prosecutors plan to bring forth a host of witnesses who will testify how Guzman ran his operation, bribed politicians and law enforcement to release Sinaloa Cartel members and remove road blocks used by trucks shipping his drugs, according to court documents.
They will also outline how he ordered the torture and deaths of more than a dozen people “to maintain an iron-fisted grip on the drug trade across the U.S.-Mexico border that invaded our community and others across the country,” Capers said.
Guzman spent months on the run after a stunning escape from a high-security lockup in central Mexico in 2015.
He used an adapted motorcycle on tracks in a mile-long tunnel to ride to freedom. However, his time on the lam was short-lived as he was eventually recaptured following a bloody shoot-out.
In 2001, Guzman — considered one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world — escaped from another prison in a laundry cart.
With Aidan McLaughlin and Graham Rayman