CHICAGO — The billionaire drug lord who replaced Osama bin Laden as America's most wanted fugitive was captured Saturday by Mexican marines, DEA agents and U.S. marshals.
Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who flooded Chicago and the suburbs with heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine through local street gangs, was the first criminal to be listed as "Public Enemy No. 1" in Chicago since Al Capone.
Authorities waged a 12-year manhunt for Guzman, 56, finally taking him into custody at a high-rise condo in the seaside Mexican resort town of Mazatlan, according to CNN, where he hid behind steel-reinforced doors. Mexican marines and U.S. DEA agents planned the raid for more than a month.
Guzman now must be extradited to the United States. He has been indicted in several states, including Illinois, and federal officials in Chicago believe they have the strongest case against the global drug kingpin.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will decide where Guzman goes to trial.
Federal courts reporter Kim Janssen reports that two Chicago drug dealers, Pedro and Margarito Flores, turned on Guzman and provided evidence that not only linked Guzman to the Chicago drug trade but revealed Chicago to be the epicenter of his American operation.
According to prosecutors, Margarito Flores traveled to Guzman’s Mexican mountaintop lair in October 2008. A month later, the brothers received a shipment of 20 kilos of heroin in Northlake.
Federal authorities seized the dope. They said the brothers then recorded a series of phone calls with senior Sinaloa cartel figures, including Guzman, in which they discussed the quality of the product they said he supplied.
Last year, the Chicago Crime Commission declared Guzman the city’s “Public Enemy No. 1,” calling him “clearly more dangerous than Al Capone was at his height.”
Authorities said Guzman’s empire included marijuana plantations in Wisconsin’s secluded North Woods, where they found 10,000 plants in patches as large as football fields in 2011.
In 2009, Guzman was indicted in Chicago after the DEA confiscated $20 million and 2 tons of cocaine.
His empire is global, however, stretching from Europe to Australia and experts estimate his annual revenue at $3 billion. Forbes magazine listed Guzman as one of the world's most powerful people in 2012, ranking him at No. 67 ahead of the president of France. "CEO of the Sinaloa cartel, "El Chapo" is the world's most powerful drug trafficker. The cartel is responsible for an estimated 25% of all illegal drugs that enter the U.S. via Mexico," Forbes wrote.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called Guzman an "arch criminal," and said the power void created by Guzman's capture will soon be filled.
"When demand exists, supply will show up,” McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times Saturday.