El Chapo's intimate text messages revealed

Marston read for the jury 2012 text messages the FBI collected through spyware

El Chapo's intimate text messages revealed
El Chapo was extradited to the U.S. in 2017 - Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP
English 10/01/2019 15:53 Reuters New York Brendan Pierson Actualizada 15:53
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Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was so preoccupied with spying on his associates he had software installed on their phones to monitor their texts and conversations, a key prosecution witness testified on Wednesday.

Christian Rodríguez, a technician who said he worked for Guzmán from 2008 to 2012 and set up a secure communication system for the cartel, took the stand in a federal court in Brooklyn to testify in Guzmán’s trial.

Rodriguez said he handled Guzmán’s requests to install spyware on about 50 “special phones” he wanted to track. The software allowed Guzmán to monitor users’ calls and texts, and even to turn on a phone’s microphone and record at any time without the user’s knowledge.

FBI agent Steven Marston testified earlier on Thursday that U.S. authorities obtained text messages from phones used by Guzmán’s wife and an apparent mistress thanks to the spyware.

Guzmán, 61, was extradited to the United States in 2017 to face charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin, and other drugs into the country as leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

Rodríguez began cooperating with the FBI while still working for Guzmán, allowing investigators to tap into the cartel’s encrypted phone network. His testimony was accompanied by special security precautions, with sketch artists instructed not to draw his face.

Rodríguez said he personally installed spyware on about 50 phones. The technician said he heard from associates of Guzmán that their boss treated the technology “like his toy,” often using it to listen to what people said about him immediately after he called them.

On Wednesday, Marston had read for the jury 2012 text messages the FBI collected through Guzmán’s spyware.

Some texts show Guzmán and his wife, Emma Coronel, discussing the hazards of cartel life. When Coronel said she was being watched by law enforcement, Guzmán advised her to “live a normal life.” In one message, Coronel assured Guzmán that she still had a gun he had given her.

After a raid on a house in the Mexican beach resort of Los Cabos that captured several of his associates, Guzmán told Coronel he had escaped through a window. He asked her to buy him some necessities, including aftershave and black mustache dye.

The couple also discussed a birthday party for their twin daughters.

Coronel watched the testimony impassively, though she seemed to become uncomfortable when Marston began reading apparently romantic texts between her husband and another woman, Agustina Cabanillas, who addressed him as “love.”

Other texts showed Cabanillas helping to set up drug deals by passing information between Guzmán and various other people, including one who used the name “War Princess.”

In one message to a friend, Cabanillas called Guzmán a “jerk” who was trying to spy on her. But she dismissed the concern.

“Guess what? I’m smarter than him,” she told the friend.


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