Make El Chapo pay for a border wall? Don't count on it

NEW YORK (AP) - After El Chapo's conviction in a drug-trafficking trial that included florid testimony of jewel-encrusted guns, a fleet of cash-laden jets and a personal zoo with roaming big cats, some Americans have floated an idea they see as poetic justice: Why not take some of the Mexican drug lord's billions in ill-gotten gains and make him pay for a border wall?

That may be a tall order, especially since federal officials can't say for sure how much Joaquin Guzman may still have from his decades of smuggling drugs into the U.S., or how exactly they intend to get their hands on it.

For now, the U.S. Department of Justice says it will be seeking forfeiture of a fortune that Guzman's indictment valued at $14 billion. Authorities won't say how they came up with that figure, but experts say it is likely based on evidence of the value of the proceeds of massive drug shipments and whatever assets were used as part of the trafficking enterprise.

With Guzman, who faces life in prison for smuggling tons of heroin, meth, fentanyl and marijuana into the U.S., authorities know their forfeiture estimate is partly symbolic, to send a message to other traffickers that a conviction could cost them their fortune as well as their freedom, said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in forfeiture.

"It's obvious he doesn't have $14 billion," Levin said. "And whatever he has may be largely uncollectable."

That reality hasn't stopped conservatives from injecting border-wall politics into the El Chapo case. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas promises to reintroduce a bill named after El Chapo that would require money seized from Mexican cartels be dedicated to a border security.

Cruz said in an interview on Fox News that he got the idea for the bill more than a year ago as Congress was debating the cost of President Donald Trump's proposed border wall, then estimated at around $14 billion.

"There's a natural and elegant symmetry that suggested itself," Cruz said. "Those billions that El Chapo has were made trafficking illegally across the U.S. border, bringing narcotics across the border, and it is only right that those ill-gotten gains go to fixing the problem of stopping the next narco-trafficker."

Getting at those gains is another matter.

In domestic white-collar cases, there's usually a paper trail that points to seizable assets in hidden bank accounts and shell companies. But El Chapo's trial was rife with evidence about how his Sinaloa cartel went to great lengths to hide its profits, whether stashing cash in safehouses or by laundering it through a phony fruit juice business in Mexico City. And then there were the hours of testimony about how much public officials in Mexico were on the take, not to mention the complications of clawing back assets in another country.

Still, there were some tantalizing details of opulence from the trial. Jurors heard one cooperating witness, Miguel Angel Martinez, describe how during the 1990s "cocaine boom" Guzman had "houses at every single beach" and ranches "in every single state." He said Guzman would send his three private jets each month to pick up drug money in Tijuana. On average, each plane would carry up to $10 million to Sinaloa.

But the defense claimed the government's narrative of a flood of cash fueling Guzman's conspicuous consumption was wildly exaggerated. In his closing argument, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman cited testimony from another cooperator who said that when Guzman was on the run as one of Mexico's most wanted about 10 years ago, he was $20 million in debt and could barely pay the underlings protecting him in one of his mountainside hideouts.

"The dude had no money," Lichtman told the jury.

Lichtman insisted in a phone interview Thursday that the idea that the 61-year-old Guzman is a billionaire is bogus.

The $14 billon "is a fantasy figure," he said. "It's fantasy not only on how it was reached, but on how they hope to collect on it."

The final forfeiture must be set by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan.

Clues for how that might play out can be found in the case of Alfredo Beltrán-Leyva, another powerful Mexican kingpin - who pleaded guilty to U.S. drug charges and is serving a life term. The government asked a judge for a $10 billion forfeiture order it said was based on debriefings of top lieutenants in the Beltran-Leyva cartel who detailed his assets.

Eduardo Balarezo, who represented Beltran-Leyva, got that total knocked down to the $529 million after arguing that the $10 billion figure was "pulled from thin air" and impossible to enforce.

The lawyer sought to make that a similar point at the Guzman trial in his cross-examination of a former cartel member who testified against Guzman. The topic was his own $1 billion forfeiture order.

"The bottom line is you're never going to pay anything remotely resembling that number, right?" the lawyer asked.

The witness responded: "An amount like that, no."


More Related News

FBI investigating Ahmaud Arbery shooting as possible hate crime, lawyer says
FBI investigating Ahmaud Arbery shooting as possible hate crime, lawyer says
  • US
  • 2020-05-25 22:19:57Z

Attorney for family of black jogger shot by white men says federal authorities are looking into prosecutors and police in caseThe FBI is investigating the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger, by two white men as a possible hate crime, the Arbery family's attorney said Monday, claiming that federal authorities had launched a criminal inquiry into two district attorneys and the police department involved in the case.Lee Martin, who represents the family of Arbery, 25, whose 23 February killing in Brunswick, Georgia, was captured on a graphic video recording that sparked national outrage, said he met with officials from the Department of Justice last Thursday.Martin said they told him...

Feds looking at Ahmaud Arbery
Feds looking at Ahmaud Arbery's death as a hate crime, attorneys say
  • US
  • 2020-05-25 21:43:25Z

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia said his office is looking into why Glynn County and the state of Georgia took so long to make arrests, Arbery's family's attorneys said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • best CBD oil for anxiety
    (2020-02-05 10:44:28Z)

    A beats might be fantastic. You possess numerous especially capable actors. I just aspire most people the right from victory.

  • Florida Local Guide
    (2020-02-05 14:52:11Z)

    Interesting topic for a blog. I have been searching the Internet for fun and came upon your website. Fabulous post. Thanks a ton for sharing your knowledge! It is great to see that some people still put in an effort into managing their websites. I'll be sure to check back again real soon.

  • india visa for japanese citizens
    (2020-02-10 06:17:23Z)

    I truly value this superb post that you have accommodated us. I guarantee this would be helpful for a large portion of the general population.

  • learning chinese language
    (2020-02-15 12:31:10Z)

    Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

  • tow truck san jose
    (2020-02-18 10:12:10Z)

    I needed to thank you for this incredible read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post.

  • Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information..

  • fpga mining rig
    (2020-02-25 09:24:18Z)

    Interesting post. I Have Been wondering about this issue. so thanks for posting. Pretty cool post.It 's really very nice and Useful post.Thanks

  • singapore best drum lessons
    (2020-02-26 07:31:16Z)

    Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.

  • I know your aptitude on this. I should say we ought to have an online discourse on this. Composing just remarks will close the talk straight away! What's more, will confine the advantages from this data. 

  • Page Listings
    (2020-03-09 06:57:14Z)

    I think this is definitely an amazing project here. So much good will be coming from this project. The ideas and the work behind this will pay off so much.

  • I genuinely believed you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you can fix if you were not too busy looking for attention. After all, I know it was my choice to read..

  • wikimedia
    (2020-03-12 07:32:44Z)

    Great job for publishing such a beneficial web site. Your web log isn’t only useful but it is additionally really creative too. There tend to be not many people who can certainly write not so simple posts that artistically. Continue the nice writing

  • thermal imaging camera
    (2020-03-13 14:40:31Z)

    Wonderful article. Fascinating to read. I love to read such an excellent article. Thanks! It has made my task more and extra easy. Keep rocking.

  • 토토
    (2020-03-17 07:41:16Z)

    Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post.

  • dil ka dariya beh hi gaya lyrics
    (2020-03-18 03:03:57Z)

    I am thankful to you for sharing this plethora of useful information. I found this resource utmost beneficial for me. Thanks a lot for hard work.

  • bracesbledsoe
    (2020-03-18 09:21:49Z)

    This is my first time visit to your blog and I am very interested in the articles that you serve. Provide enough knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful and don't forget, keep sharing useful info:

  • I surely acquiring more difficulties from each surprisingly more little bit of it

  • ridding helmet
    (2020-03-27 05:40:58Z)

    I admit, I have not been on this web page in a long time... however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.

  • oncame
    (2020-03-27 11:25:40Z)

    I’m going to read this. I’ll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing. and also This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives indepth information. thanks for this nice article...

  • midwood condo
    (2020-03-28 10:48:25Z)

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.

  •  dewapoker
    (2020-03-29 06:25:06Z)

    This particular is usually apparently essential and moreover outstanding truth along with for sure fair-minded and moreover admittedly useful My business is looking to find in advance designed for this specific useful stuffs…

  • Sa game
    (2020-04-01 15:20:45Z)

    I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job !

  •  แอบถ่าย
    (2020-04-05 17:07:55Z)

    A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.

  • Really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us.Great site and a great topic as well i really get amazed to read this. Its really good.

  • 리니지 m 다이아 판매
    (2020-04-22 06:51:46Z)

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.

  • Psychic readings online
    (2020-04-27 12:05:59Z)

    Thanks a lot for sharing this excellent info! I am looking forward to seeing more posts by you as soon as possible! I have judged that you do not compromise on quality.

    (2020-04-30 15:32:54Z)

    I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information?

  • roupas de inverno atacado
    (2020-05-01 14:59:51Z)

    quer comprar roupas de inverno atacado e não sabe onde? temos ótimas dicas para você que quer abastecer sua loja com roupas moda inverno, temos blusas manga longa, roupas de moletom e tudo para você passar este inverno quentinho.

  • Powerful Superfoods
    (2020-05-04 15:15:54Z)

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with extra information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  • job posting site
    (2020-05-05 07:51:50Z)

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  • Edelstahlpool
    (2020-05-18 22:19:38Z)

    Your content is nothing short of brilliant in many ways. I think this is engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers.

  • absorci?n
    (2020-05-21 09:30:35Z)

    Hi, the whole tһing is going niсely here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that's really excellent, keep up writing.

  • A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. combat, law enforcement You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.

  • sohbet odaları
    (2020-05-24 17:01:48Z)

    Oh my goodness! Amazinbg article dude! Thank you sso much, However I
    am going through issues with your RSS. I don't understand wwhy I cannot
    subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems?
    Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond?

  • Uşak rent a Car
    (2020-05-26 00:05:57Z)

    It's appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time
    to be happy. I have read this post and if I
    could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or advice.
    Perhaps yyou could write next articles referring too this article.

    I waqnt to read more things about it!


Top News: Latin America