Feds change tune on whether cooperating Flores twins who turned on ‘El Chapo’ had assets stashed away
The disclosure comes as Margarito Flores seeks compassionate release from prison due to COVID-19.
When U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in 2015 sentenced Pedro and Margarito Flores — heralded as two of the most important drug informants in U.S. history — he made it clear he thought they had drug money stashed away for when they got out of prison.
At the time, federal prosecutors had discovered no evidence of hidden assets. But that’s changed, according to a document filed in federal court late Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Erika Csicsila told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in a 36-page filing in Chicago that “the government no longer holds the view that all recoverable proceeds were turned over to the government.” In a footnote, she wrote that “defense counsel was made aware of the government’s change in position in early March 2020.”
The disclosure was made in response to a request for compassionate release from Margarito Flores, in which he apparently argued he is at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Flores’ request was filed under seal, but Csicsila filed her response with redactions. The document says Flores is “currently serving his sentence in an institution within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the location of which remains undisclosed” to protect his safety.
The document says Flores is due to be released in November. It mentions that he had been hospitalized for a tooth abscess but “was returned to his institution” last week.
The Flores brothers, known as the Twins, pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2014 and were given relatively light prison sentences of 14 years. Pedro Flores testified against Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera during his trial in Brooklyn, which led to a life prison term for him.
Margarito Flores has said he met with Guzman and others in the mountains of northern Mexico in October 2008 after the brothers agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government against the Sinaloa cartel led by “El Chapo.” Pedro Flores provided the feds in Chicago with key evidence against Chapo: a recorded phone call in which they discussed a drug deal.
When the Flores brothers were sentenced, the judge told them that, even after they do their time and are released into the government’s witness-protection program, they’ll always have to worry about being hunted down by cartel hit men. Last year, they lost a bid to have their sentences shortened for their continuing cooperation against the Sinaloa cartel.
The government has seized more than $4 million from the twins, but their spending while in protective custody continued to raise questions about whether more money was hidden. Pedro Flores, for instance, gave his wife a $200,000 Bentley shortly before he went to prison. The feds later seized the car and prosecutors called the gift “wholly inappropriate.”