Shooting bazookas with his family. Burying a rival alive. Athrough a sewer system. These were just a few days in the life of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
TheTuesday on all 10 counts in a U.S. federal trial in Brooklyn. But even those crimes — which include international drug distribution, engaging in criminal conspiracy and use of firearms — sound mild compared to the details that emerged in court about El Chapo’s life and criminal empire.
The 11-week trial gave unprecedented exposure to the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s largest drug operations — and revealed an astonishing web of political corruption, runaway wealth and brutal murder. Jurors learned about a criminal underworld wilder than any drug runners on TV. (No wonder Alejandro Edda, the actor who plays El Chapo on “Narcos: Mexico,” felt compelledand watch.)
“I firmly believe that if there were a camera in the El Chapo trial, that it would have riveted this nation in a way that probably nothing since O.J. Simpson has riveted the nation,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said after the verdict was announced. “It is the fact that truth is stranger than fiction.”
The “murder room,” and other grisly deaths
Prosecutors said Guzman was at the center of a drug war that had claimed tens of thousands of lives. The trial revealed just how grisly and sadistic some of those deaths were.
One of El Chapo’s smugglers, Edgar Galvan, testified that a hitman for the drug lord had ain his mansion near the U.S.-Mexico border. Galvan said the room was sound-proofed and had a drain in the floor to make cleanups easier.
Guzman would also get his own hands dirty in murders — and he showed no mercy. Isaias Valdez Rios, a former bodyguard, testified that Guzman once spent three hours beating two men from a rival gang, leaving them “like rag dolls … their bones were totally broken.” Guzman later shot the men and ordered that their bodies be thrown into a bonfire.
In another instance, Rios said Guzman kept a rival locked away and burned his body before bringing him to a graveyard with his hands and feet bound. He then shot the man while interrogating him and had him buried while he was still gasping for air.
Bazookas and rifles with the family
Vicente Zambada Niebla, a drug trafficker who worked for Guzman, said El Chapo once fired assault rifles with his family during a vacation. After that, he used an anti-tank bazooka for target practice.
This might not have been the only time Guzman gave guns to his family members.to his wife about one of their daughters, Guzman said he was “going to give her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.” The daughter was just 6 months old at the time.
A naked escape
Guzman pulled off multiple brazen escapes from authorities over the years — even if he had to do it the buff.
One of his mistresses testified that, when Mexican marines tried to bust into a house where they were hiding out in 2014, the kingpin had them escape through a trap door under a bathtub. It led to an underground tunnel where ran they ran through a sewer system and away from the marines. El Chapo was.
Bribing the president (allegedly)
Witnesses testified that Guzman’s cartel spent millions of dollars paying off officials who could have stopped them — including an alleged $50 million bribe fund for Mexico’s head of public security. The biggest bombshell, though, was a supposedto former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who left office just two months ago.
Alex Cifuentes, a Columbian drug trafficker who worked with Guzman, testified that the Mexican president and El Chapo negotiated the bribe to ensure Guzman’s safety.
A spokesman for Nieto said the bribery claim was “false and defamatory.” Another former Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, also denied a bribery allegation that came up in the trial.
El Chapo’s extravagance
Prosecutors said Guzman’s drug ring raked in billions of dollars — and that came with a lot of perks. According to Zambada, those splurges included awith lions and tigers that could be visited by a “little train.” Guzman had a diamond-encrusted pistol and a gold-plated AK-47. He also had four jets, a yacht and beach houses all across Mexico.
One subplot that popped up through the trial was the prevalence of plastic surgeries in the drug world. Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, a cocaine supplier who testified against Guzman and went by Chupeta (Spanish for “lollipop), had undergone multiple plastic surgeries to avoid detection from authorities. El Chapo also apparentlyfor an operative who became one of his mistresses.