Ex High-Ranking Mexican Officers Charged in Drug Scheme

Jul 31, 2020
10:12 AM

In this Jan 3, 2020 file courtroom sketch, defense attorney César de Castro, left, Mexico’s former top security official, Genaro García Luna, center, and a court interpreter, appear for an arraignment hearing in Brooklyn federal court in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Two former high-ranking Mexican law enforcement officials have been accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes to protect Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s notorious Sinaloa cartel, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Luis Cárdenas Palomino and Ramon Pequeño García allegedly worked for Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former top security official, who is also facing drug trafficking charges. According to prosecutors, the three men “permitted the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico.”

García Luna is pending trial in New York on charges he conspired to traffic cocaine and made false statements. On Thursday, a superseding indictment charged him with continuing criminal enterprise. Cardenas Palomino and Pequeño García have not been arrested, prosecutors said.

“Through today’s superseding indictment, García Luna and his co-conspirators will face justice for offenses involving the importation and the distribution of massive quantities of dangerous drugs into the United States,” said Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

From 2001 to 2005, García Luna led Mexico’s federal investigation agency, and from 2006 to 2012, he served as Mexico’s Secretary of Public Security.

García Luna denies the charges and says he intends to fight them at his New York City trial. His defense attorney, César de Castro, has said the case is built upon the discredited —and self-serving— accounts of drug traffickers.

García Luna is accused of accepting tens of millions of dollars in bribes —often stuffed in briefcases full of cash— to shield the Sinaloa cartel from law enforcement.

Before convicting Guzmán last year, jurors in his New York trial heard former cartel member Jesús Zambada testify that he personally made at least $6 million in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison last year after a jury convicted him in a massive drug conspiracy involving murder and mayhem.