Mexico outsources justice in its most high-profile cases to the United States

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office for the Eastern District of New York has become an outsourcing agency for the Mexican government, since at least in the last five years, drug traffickers and high-profile criminals, who were not prosecuted for their crimes in Mexico, have been brought to trial and sentenced in the United States.

The trial of former Secretary of Public Security, Genaro García Luna, underway in New York, is not the only case in which the prosecutors —who have been known for being implacable in their sentences— have brought before a federal judge in this district, in Brooklyn. And even though they have been sentenced in the United States, in Mexico some of these criminals left charges pending, in some cases, they were never formally charged in Mexico.

Among the nine super-media cases related to Mexico that have been handled by this Prosecutor’s Office, are that of the former prosecutor of Nayarit, Edgar Veytia; Juan Francisco Patrón, the H2; Jesus the King Zambada; Brazilian company Odebrecht related to bribes to Emilio Lozoya, and the sexual cult NXIVM, among others.

Like the case of Genaro García Luna, another of the media issues that this New York court has handled is that of the drug trafficker Joaquín el Chapo Guzmán. Although he was arrested and imprisoned by the Mexican authorities, a determination was reached to extradite him to the United States after his escapes from Puente Grande in 2001 and from Almoloya in 2015.

Guzmán Loera was charged with money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime by prosecutor Robert L. Capers, who at the time called him “a cancerous tumor.” During the judicial process that lasted almost five years, prosecutors presented 13 witnesses who described in great detail how El Chapo operated a drug empire for decades, sustained by violence.

The Prosecutor’s Office obtained a sentence of double life imprisonment and his confinement in one of the most secure prisons in the United States.

Jesús Reynaldo el Rey Zambada García, who was extradited in 2012, the brother of Ismael el Mayo Zambada, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, ended up in that judicial district and cooperated with the prosecutors in the trial against Joaquí el Chapo Guzmán and has obtained benefits for this assisting role.

Another of the witnesses in the Chapo trial and who was accused by the Federal Prosecutor from the Eastern District of New York was Jorge Cifuentes Villa, an associate of Guzmán Loera who coordinated shipments of tons of cocaine through speedboats from Mexico to the United States.

In addition to serving as cooperative witnesses for prosecutors in the Guzmán case, there are other drug traffickers who were left no choice but to cooperate and plead guilty. This was the case of Iván Reyes Arzate, a former commander of the Mexican federal police.

In 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office revealed that Reyes worked on leaking information from security operations to organizations such as the Beltrán Leyva Cartel.

La Reina, as this 49-year-old former police officer known in the world of drug trafficking, was arrested in January 2020 in the United States, and on February 9, 2022, he was sentenced to spend 10 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to traffic drugs to the US.

Other drug criminals who were investigated by the federal prosecutors of the Eastern District are those commanded by the trafficker Jesús Ricardo Patrón Sánchez, known as H3, and Juan Francisco Patrón, H2, presumed heirs of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. H2 was shot down in a Mexican Navy operation in 2016.

The officials revealed that a cell under their charge made up of three members, Kenia Alejandra Valdez, José Dagoberto Cortes, and Deovaldo Gutiérrez, trafficked tons of drugs from Central America and Mexico to the United States.

It was this case that led the prosecution team to discover another criminal aspect: that of the former Nayarit prosecutor, Edgar Veytia –also known in that state as El Diablo–, who was accused of participating in the distribution of drugs within US from 2013 to 2017, a period in which he served as Nayarit attorney general. He was accused of both protecting the Patrón Sánchez brothers and allowing the rise of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel in Nayarit.

It was Veytia who accused the former Secretary of Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, of giving the cartels protection in exchange for bribes. In a statement before these prosecutors, Veytia stated that he heard how, during an operation, a group of criminals mentioned that they were people from Cienfuegos.

In 2019, the same Brooklyn-based prosecutor’s office arrested and charged General Cienfuegos. However, as is known, in an agreement between the authorities of the two countries they decided to return him to Mexico, where he was not prosecuted and it was alleged that the prosecutors’ evidence was unsubstantiated.

Two internationally relevant issues that touched Mexico were the cases of the Brazilian oil company Odebrecht and NXIVM, the organization that disguised as marketing and personal development courses hid a sect of cult and sexual exploitation.

Keith Raniere, the leader of the sect, was arrested in 2018 while spending his days in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. The arrest was due to an accusation by the United States authorities, which pointed to the cult leader for sexually abusing women.

The cult hid behind a company of “empowerment and self-improvement”, and made its center of operation in Mexico, where it managed to attract very wealthy VIP followers, particularly in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Some of the Mexicans involved were Rosa Laura Junco, who played a central role in the recruitment of upper-class women in Monterrey, the Monterrey sisters Jimena Garza Dávila, Loreta Garza Dávila, as well as Emiliano Salinas Occelli and Cecilia Occelli González, son and former wife of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

In 2020, Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison, and the charges included possession of child pornography. In Mexico, once again, nothing happened.

Added to all this is the Odebrecht case, which became known in 2016 when the Brazilian companies Odebrecht and Braskem pleaded guilty before the Federal District Court of New York for paying bribes to public servants in various countries, including Mexico.

They confessed to being involved in paying bribes to “high-level officials” in a company owned by the Mexican State, in order to be favored in the assignment of a project. Emilio Lozoya Austin was the CEO of Petróleos Mexicanos.

In 2016, Odebrecht executives pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a combined total fine of at least $3.5 billion to settle the charges. Emilio Lozoya, at the risk of being arrested, fled the country and was captured in Spain in February 2020, and later returned to Mexico, where he was given a sweet deal that even allowed him to check out of jail for expensive meals at local upscale restaurants.

Thus the contrast between that and what happens in the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

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