What one doesn’t hear so often is that U.S. prosecutors have cut deals with the Sinaloa cartel.
Yet that is precisely what is alleged in federal court documents filed last week in the northern district of Illinois. The case involves the son of one of the two main leaders of the Sinaloa crime group, “El Mayo” Zambada. His son, Vicente Jesus Zambada-Niebla, was arrested in a swank Mexico City neighborhood in March 2009 and later sent to stand trial in Illinois.
Perhaps the allegations presented by the lawyer for “Vicentillo” are far-fetched. But maybe not.
In any case, Zambada Sr. and his fellow Sinaloa crime chief, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, were indicted in California in 1995. That indictment also named their consigliere, Humberto Loya Castro.
In 2008, U.S. prosecutors dropped charges against Loya Castro (see document above), and the presumption was that he’d been collaborating with U.S. prosecutors on bringing Mexican drug traffickers to justice.
Here is the description of what unfolded, according to the younger Zambada’s lawyer:
Sometime prior to 2004, and continuing through the time period covered in the indictment, the United States government entered into an agreement with Loya and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Mayo and Chapo. Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel, through Loya, was to provide information accumulated by Mayo, Chapo, and others, against rival Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations to the United States government. In return, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Loya, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them.
The court filings allege that the two top Sinaloa leaders had full trust in Loya even though they knew he was routinely meeting with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. They also knew that the DEA was not going to move against the while the agreement was in force, even though indictments were already in effect, the papers allege.
Through his lawyer, Vicente Zambada says Loya brokered a meeting for him with U.S. drug agents at the Mexico City Sheraton Hotel in March 2009.
Mr. Zambada-Niebla believed that under the prior agreement, any activities of the Sinaloa Cartel, including the kind described in the indictment, were covered by the agreement, and that he was immune from arrest or prosecution.
The filings say the agreement with the Sinaloa cartel had “been approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”
Five hours after the meeting, Zambada Jr was busted by Mexican police.
Zambada’s lawyer filed the new papers in his defense to request that the U.S. government turn over all documents related to turning Loya into an informant and any agreements reached with Sinaloa leaders.
Mr. Zambada-Niebla believes that the materials requested in request #42 will confirm his allegations that the United States has a policy of entering into agreements with individuals who they know are violent narcotics traffickers, so long as those persons are willing to provide information against other drug traffickers, and that they entered into such an agreement with the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Item: I should probably state the obvious straight off: Zambada Jr's interest is in getting out of jail. Would he be willing to make stuff up whole cloth to get his wish? Probably. So it is possible that there is a grain of truth in this but also conjecture and falsehoods. As Carmen Aristegui said this morning on her radio interview program, certainly some of the allegations could be proven or refuted with things like closed circuit TV images that the Sheraton Hotel would have.