Ovidio Guzmán López, son of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, pleaded not guilty Monday to drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges during his first court appearance since his extradition from Mexico to the United States.
Guzmán López was extradited Friday, five months after U.S. prosecutors unsealed numerous indictments against him and his brothers, known collectively as the “Chapitos.” The indictments show how, after their father was extradited and given a life sentence in the United States in 2019, the brothers steered the cartel increasingly toward synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and the powerful opioid fentanyl .
During the 15-minute arraignment, Guzmán López pleaded not guilty through a translator, standing before a judge in an orange jumpsuit and matching orange slippers, his legs shackled at the ankles. He leaned in as he listened to prosecutors and Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.
A larger-than-usual contingent of seven security guards stood in the courtroom, including one facing the court benches and monitoring visitors.
Mexican security forces captured Guzmán López, known as “the Mouse,” in January in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, the cartel’s namesake. His arrest sparked violence which left 30 dead, including 10 soldiers. The Mexican military used Black Hawk gunships against the cartel’s truck-mounted .50-caliber machine guns. Cartel gunmen struck two military planes, forcing them to land, and sent gunmen to the city’s airport, where military and civilian planes were hit by gunfire.
Ovidio Guzman Lopez, detained in Mexico since early January, was indicted in April for drug trafficking and other crimes.
Three years earlier, the government had attempted to capture him, but aborted the operation after similar violence.
U.S. indictments against the brothers, unsealed in April, said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price. The brothers denied the allegations in a letter.
“We have never produced, manufactured or marketed fentanyl or any of its derivatives,” the letter states. “We are victims of persecution and have been made scapegoats. »
Several of the five charges against Guzmán López carry maximum life sentences, including conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to distribute drugs. A conviction on any of the counts, engaging in an illegal enterprise as a director, carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement Friday that Guzmán López’s extradition “reflects the importance of ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments in the fight against narcotics and drug trafficking.” ‘other vital challenges’. Sherwood-Randall has made several visits to Mexico this year to meet with President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, most recently last month.
López Obrador has described his country as a transit point for fentanyl precursors from China to the United States, despite claims by the U.S. government and his own military about production in Mexico.