Chicago's new Public Enemy No. 1: 'El Chapo'
The Chicago Crime Commission named a new Public Enemy No. 1 on Thursday, a designation originally crafted for Al Capone. The new holder of this dubious distinction, however, is not American nor believed to be in the United States. He is Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the infamous Mexican drug lord who is Chicago's most wanted because his Sinaloa cartel supplies a majority of the narcotics in the city.
Not since Capone "has any criminal deserved this title more than Joaquin Guzman," commission President J.R. Davis said in a news release. "Guzman is the major supplier of narcotics to Chicago. His agents are working in the Chicago area importing vast quantities of drugs for sale throughout the Chicago region and collecting and sending to Mexico tens of millions of dollars in drug money."
Guzman is the boss of the Sinaloa cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking operations.
His nickname, which means "shorty," matches his 5-foot-6-inch frame, though he has climbed to great heights in the drug smuggling business. Forbes magazine has estimated that "El Chapo" is worth $1 billion.
The U.S. Treasury Department has declared him the most influential trafficker in the world, and Mexican authorities have been on his tail since his 2001 escape from a Mexican prison in a laundry cart.
Chicago is among the major destinations for the cartel's illegal drugs.
"While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border," said Jack Riley, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's office in the city.
The DEA is heading up a new strike force focusing on what Riley calls "choke points": where the drugs and money change hands between the cartel operatives and Chicago gangs. Language and cultural barriers at that juncture make the criminal groups more vulnerable, he said in a statement.
Officials hope this strategy weakens the cartel and creates leads that may bring the capture of Guzman, who is in hiding in Mexico.
"If I pitted Chicago's traditional organized crime group against Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, it wouldn't be a fight," Riley said. "In my opinion, Guzman is the new Al Capone of Chicago. His ability to corrupt and enforce his sanctions with his endless supply of revenue is more powerful than Chicago's Italian organized crime gang."
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