Notorious narcotics kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known internationally as “El Chapo,” was extradited to the United States and touched down at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Thursday night to face charges in the country where authorities said he exported tons of drugs from his native Mexico.
Dozens of agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, State Police, U.S. Marshals Service and the NYPD, among other agencies, met the handcuffed Guzman as he descended from a private Mexican plane onto the tarmac of the airport in Ronkonkoma and briskly led him to a hangar.
Helicopters hovered over the airport as about a dozen SUVs and New York City police cars waited on the tarmac by the hangar. After a little more than 30 minutes, the prisoner, once at the pinnacle of the drug world, and those around him came out and entered a vehicle. The procession then left in single file.
Guzman, also known as Guzman Loera, is expected to be arraigned Friday in Brooklyn federal court. He will face a raft of federal charges related to the trafficking of tons of narcotics over more than two decades.
Thursday night, he was expected to go to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, site of a new high security wing.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry announced the transfer, saying it culminated a lengthy court battle by Guzmán’s lawyers for him to remain in Mexico, where he had repeatedly managed to escape from prison and had lived like a king most of the time that he was behind bars.
A Mexican official told The Washington Post that the transfer, on the last full day of President Barack Obama’s administration, was meant as a “farewell gift” to Obama and not as an overture to President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office Friday. Trump has sharply criticized Mexico and vowed to make it pay for a U.S. border wall.
Even though Mexico’s newly appointed foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, developed close contacts with the Trump team during the campaign, the extradition of Guzmán was intended to send the signal to Trump that not all negotiations with Mexico would be so easy. The message to Trump, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about government deliberations, is that “nothing is for free.”
Guzmán, who was recaptured a year ago after having escaped from prison in July 2015, is wanted in the United States for trafficking heroin, cocaine and other drugs across the border, among other crimes. He has been indicted in at least seven U.S. federal courts.
“The government . . . today handed Mr. Guzmán Loera to the U.S. authorities,” the Mexico Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The transfer came after a Mexican court earlier Thursday rejected Guzmán’s last bid to avoid extradition.
Guzmán, who has twice escaped from Mexican prisons, was turned over to officers of the DEA in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. He was then put on a plane bound for Long Island. New York is one of the jurisdictions where he faces federal charges, U.S. officials said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, where Guzmán is expected to appear, declined to comment.
The extradition represents Guzmán’s worst nightmare: living behind bars in a U.S. high-security prison.
Before agreeing to extradite Guzmán in 2016, Mexican authorities had made it a point of pride for years to keep him on home soil. Guzmán, who publicly claimed responsibility for delivering much of America’s cocaine and heroin, and fought bloody battles with rival traffickers, first escaped from Mexican custody in 2001 reportedly by hiding in a laundry cart after bribing prison guards to help him flee.
With The Washington Post and The Associated Press