U.S. prosecutors are planning to seek the extradition of Mexico's most feared drug cartel leader. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested Saturday after years on the run. Now, officials on both sides of the border are hoping he'll serve hard time in San Diego. NBC 7’s Diana Guevara reports.
After the landmark capture of notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, U.S. prosecutors want to see him face an American court.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York announced Sunday it will seek Guzman’s extradition from Mexico, according to NBC News.
Guzman, 56, was arrested Saturday in Mazatlan by U.S. and Mexican authorities after years on the run. He faces indictments in six U.S. districts – from New York to San Diego – in addition to charges in Mexico.
A 1995 San Diego indictment charges Guzman and 22 members of his organization with money laundering and conspiracy to import more than eight tons of cocaine.
Organized crime is among the charges against him for his work as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, which was linked to three major smuggling tunnels in the San Diego-area.
Local criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor John Kirby said Guzman’s arrest is a blow to the cartel that even he did not see coming.
“I think it’s going to hurt cocaine and methamphetamine production significantly,” said Kirby.
To avoid Guzman’s continued work within the cartel, Baja California State Police Commander Alfredo Arenas said he needs to be taken out of Mexico.
“The best thing that could happen is to have him extradited into the U.S. because here in Mexico, most likely he’s still going to be operating from inside the jail,” said Arenas.
He may even try to escape, Arenas believes.
While extraditing Guzman is the ultimate goal for the U.S., Kirby said it’s a long process, and it could take years before he touches U.S. soil.
Guzman may delay by demanding an identity hearing to force the court to prove he is the real “El Chapo,” according to Kirby.
As the case moves through, Arenas expects crime rates to rise in Tijuana.
“The organized crime unions are like Medusa: you cut one head off, someone else comes out and pops up,” said Arenas.
The organization has smuggled billions of dollars’ worth of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the U.S. and fought bloody turf wars with competing gangs.
Attorney General Eric Holder called the Sinaloa Cartel a “drug-running empire that spans continents.”
Some claim 25 percent of the drugs consumed in the U.S. came through the Sinaloa Cartel pipeline, according to Octavio Rodriguez with the Justice and Mexico Projects.
In Oct. 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents uncovered an Otay Mesa tunnel that fed into a toy warehouse, which they believe was operated by the Guzman’s cartel. Inside, they recovered $6.5 million worth of marijuana and cocaine.