The United States Drug Enforcement Administration scored a huge victory recently when the son of an important member of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to help the agency in further investigations.
In April 2013 Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, a self-described “lieutenant” under his father- Sinaloa Cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada-Garcia – turned state’s witness. The 39 year old son, who was arrested in Mexico City in 2009, had been indicted in Chicago for his involvement in shipping drugs to the city. He was extradited to the United States from Mexico in 2010, setting up his landmark deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration a year ago.
According to a government report, Zambada served as a sort of communications chief for his father, and was also heavily involved in the coordination of the cartel’s logistics. He was reportedly responsible for shipping thousands of kilograms of cocaine, sometimes up to hundreds of kilograms per week, between 2005 and 2008. Authorities say that Zambada used Chicago as a hub for his narcotics distribution activities.
The extent of Zambada’s cooperation with authorities and the eventual outcome of his plea deal are still not known. DEA authorities have said that he faces life in prison and a four million dollar maximum fine, but that any reduction will depend on the level of his cooperation. Zambada also forfeited over one billion dollars as a part of his ongoing legal process.
The Sinaloa Cartel is considered to be Mexico’s largest drug cartel, controlling the majority of the importation of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. But in recent years the cartel has been weakened by a series of arrests, culminating in 2014’s arrest of fugitive cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Despite the timing of Guzman’s arrest, authorities have not linked his arrest to Zambada’s cooperation.