A reputed Sinaloa drug cartel lieutenant who’s facing trial next month in a 9-year-old Chicago case was in the greeting party the first time Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera escaped from prison in Mexico, federal prosecutors say.
That’s among the evidence against Jesus Raul Beltran-Leon revealed in court papers this week as the U.S. attorney’s office outlined its case for the trial set to begin April 29.
Beltran-Leon, 35, was a lieutenant to Guzman’s son Alfredo Guzman, one of the logistical coordinators for the tons of drugs the cartel shipped to Chicago and other U.S. cities, prosecutors say.
Guzman escaped a Mexican prison in 2001 and called his son Ivan Guzman to pick him up, according to a former cartel member turned government informant. Beltran-Leon told the informant he was with the son when they met the drug kingpin, making Beltran-Leon “one of the first people to see” the boss after the first of his two daring prison escapes, according to prosecutors.
In a business in which everyone seems to have a nickname, Beltran-Leon has many. Napoleon. Cerrajero — Spanish for the locksmith. Chuy Raul — Chuy being a Mexican nickname for people named Jesus. And Trevol.
Prosecutors say Ivan Guzman and his brother Alfredo Guzman are referred to in the cartel as “Batman and Robin.” And, of course, their father is El Chapo, which translates roughly to “Shorty” — he’s 5-feet, 6-inches tall.
Beltran-Leon and Alfredo Guzman are brothers-in-law.
In their court filing this week, prosecutors described how slippery they were in evading capture. They wrote that, in February 2014, Beltran-Leon ran up to a car driven by a cartel member and told the driver, who’s now a government informant, that he was at a restaurant with Alfredo and Ivan Guzman when a waiter told them the “government was coming.” They exchanged clothes with some of the waiters and made their escape, leaving behind their cars, according to the filing Monday.
The amount of drug money Beltran-Leon allegedly oversaw was staggering. Prosecutors say a former assistant said he picked up $4 million to $6 million a month for Beltran-Leon in return for .5 percent of the drug proceeds he collected.
Beltran-Leon, who was extradited to Chicago in 2017, has accused U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents of watching as Mexican soldiers tortured him after his capture in November 2014.
Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo has called Beltran-Leon’s account of his capture disturbing but refused to dismiss the charges against him.
• How West Side bust led the feds to ‘El Chapo,’ Jan. 28, 2018
• 2 top cartel lieutenants still face a reckoning in Chicago in El Chapo case, Feb. 13, 2019
• Ex-Chicago FBI boss: DEA agent’s El Chapo book ‘fiction’ regarding key meeting, Feb. 24, 2019
• Ex-Chicago DEA boss who helped nail El Chapo seethed at slow action on drug war, Feb. 17, 2019
Guzman was convicted last month of drug conspiracy charges after a three-month federal trial in Brooklyn. Facing a possible life sentence, he’s probably headed to the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
In the notorious 2001 escape after which authorities say Beltran-Leon greeted him, Guzman got out by bribing guards and supposedly hiding in a laundry cart. Guzman was captured in 2014 but escaped from prison again in 2015, was recaptured in 2016 and brought to the United States a year later to stand trial.
Guzman’s sons Alfredo and Ivan were among those charged with the druglord and Beltran-Leon in the 2009 Chicago indictment. They remain at large. Alfredo Guzman is on the DEA’s most-wanted fugitive list.
One of the cartel’s top players, Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada Niebla, the son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, testified against Guzman on Jan. 3 and faces sentencing in Chicago on April 25.
At the Brooklyn trial, Zambada testified that he oversaw cocaine shipments from Colombia to Mexico and from Mexico to Chicago, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. He said his father budgeted $1 million a month for payoffs to politicians, cops and military officials in Mexico. El Mayo also is on the DEA’s most-wanted list.