Prosecutors reveal calls intercepted by FBI in ‘El Chapo’ trial

The FBI tapped into more than 800 calls with the help of a witness between 2011 and 2012

Prosecutors reveal calls intercepted by FBI in ‘El Chapo’ trial
Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán is presented before the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by members of the Mexican army in 2016 - Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP
English 09/01/2019 12:33 Reuters Mexico City Jonathan Stempel Actualizada 19:46
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Prosecutors in the trial of “El Chapo” Joaquín Guzmán on Tuesday played excerpts from what they said were incriminating phone calls made by the accused Mexican drug lord and intercepted by the FBI after they infiltrated his encrypted messaging system.

Nearly two months into the trial of Guzmán on charges of drug trafficking as leader of the Sinaloa cartel, FBI special agent Steven Marston testified the 61-year-old was easily identifiable by his higher-pitched voice, which had “kind of a sing-songy nature to it” and a “nasally undertone.”

The phone call excerpts that wafted through the Brooklyn courtroom on Tuesday included discussions of dealings with local officials, including one where Guzmán appears to admonish an associate to be careful dealing with police.

“Well, you taught us to be a wolf, acting like a wolf,” the associate replied.

Guzmán was extradited to the United States in January 2017 to face charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin, and other drugs through the Mexico-U.S. border. Prosecutors have said he also played a central role in the Mexican drug war, in which more than 100,000 people have died.

Guzmán’s lawyers have portrayed their client as a scapegoat for what they called Sinaloa’s real leader, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who also faces U.S. charges but remains at large.

The trial began Nov. 13 and is expected to last a few more weeks. Guzmán faces life in prison if convicted.

Marston said the FBI tapped into more than 800 calls on the encrypted system with the help of a cooperating witness, Cristian Rodríguez.

The agent said the system’s servers were moved to the Netherlands, where they “would not be suspicious” to Sinaloa, and that calls were intercepted from April 2011 to January 2012.

Jurors had previously heard from former Guzmán associates testifying about multi-ton drug shipments, deadly wars between rival drug lords, and corruption by Mexican public officials.

The defendant mostly sat quietly during testimony, but waved enthusiastically to his wife in the courtroom before it started.

Tuesday’s proceedings began with testimony from government witness Edgar Galván, a low-level drug trafficker who the defense said fabricated payments from another trafficker to Guzmán with the hope of reducing his own 24-1/3-year prison term.

Galván denied making up the payments, though he admitted to having previously lied to investigators.

“Would you say you’re a pretty good liar?” defense lawyer William Purpura asked Galván.

“I used to be,” Galván said.


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