NEW YORK (AP) — To cohabitate with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was to see his excitement about the prospect of getting his life story on film, to evade the soldiers hunting him at a moment’s notice and to hear him order the killing of an informant, a witness testified Monday at Guzman’s U.S. trial.
The witness, Alex Cifuentes, was a member of a Colombian drug-trafficking clan when he was sent in 2007 to live with Guzman and his associates at one of the kingpin’s hideaways in Mexico — complete with satellite TV and maid service — “for business reasons,” he told jurors in federal court in Brooklyn.
Business was as robust as Guzman’s vanity: Cifuentes testified last week that his organization ended up making $40 million a month by supplying stockpiles of cocaine that the Sinaloa cartel smuggled into the United States. Lawyers for Guzman say Cifuentes is one of several cooperators who are framing their client in hopes of getting leniency in their own cases.
Cifuentes described Monday how when his wife suggested that Guzman should make a movie about his life as a near-mythical outlaw on the run, “He loved the idea.” There were two drafts of the story written but it never made it to production, he said.
Another time, when it appeared the military was closing in on the camp, Guzman ordered his followers to grab their assault weapons and flee on foot into the darkness, the witness said. “We were running practically all night,” he said before trucks arrived to take them to another one of Guzman’s half dozen hideouts in the region.
There also was testimony about Christian Rodriguez, a computer tech hired by the cartel to set up a secure communications system installed with spyware that allowed Guzman to covertly track his associates and love interests.
The kingpin “was really interested in what people were saying about him,” Cifuentes said. “If it wasn’t pertaining to him, then he really didn’t care.”
During another conversation, Guzman informed Cifuentes that Rodriguez had given information to authorities about Cifuentes’ drug dealer brother.
Guzman said “that we should look for him to kill him,” Cifuentes testified. His response: “I started looking for him.”
In an intercepted phone call to his mother about his brother, Cifuentes asked her to “send him my regards and tell him that Christian was the one who blew the whistle.”
The hit never happened and the tech ended up helping the FBI collect scores of incriminating text messages that are a centerpiece of the prosecution.