Colorful cast of cooperators put the heat on El Chapo

Colorful cast of cooperators put the heat on El Chapo

December 23, 2018

Planes, trains and a VERY woolly cover! A terrible twin, a gambling addict who got plastic surgery as a disguise and a gangster who started a life of crime aged four testify against El Chapo sharing the covert ways they smuggled cocaine

  • El Chapo’s former associates Tirso Martinez Sanchez, Jorge Cifuentes and Pedro Flores took the stand to testify against him in December
  • Martinez spoke about buying soccer teams with his drug money, running a ‘cocaine train’ across the US, his gambling habit and plastic surgery
  • Cifuentes talked about flying coke in planes made of carbon to avoid detection 
  • Flores described using 150 live sheep to mask a drugs truck shipment and having to pay $10,000 to put the sheep to pasture 

Three men with very colorful histories have become the latest to testify against Mexican drug lord El Chapo during his New York City trial.  

One was a gambling addict who got plastic surgery to change his appearance even after his predecessor died from doing the same thing. Another claims to have begun his life of crime at age four. And the third was a kid from Chicago who grew up to make a fortune off of drug running.

The three – Tirso Martinez Sanchez, Jorge Cifuentes and Pedro Flores – now share the notoriety of being the most recent cooperators to testify against the infamous drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman at a lengthy U.S. trial that’s heading into an extended holiday break.

Painting a vivid picture of the Colombian-Mexican cocaine bonanza of the 1990s and 2000s, the three admitted narcos described in federal court in Brooklyn the rewards, drawbacks and weirdness of working with the powerful boss of the Sinaloa cartel.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s former associates – (L to R) Tirso Matinez Sanchez, Pedro Flores and Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa – took the stand to testify against the Mexican drug lord

The three men testified against Guzman in December during the drug lord’s trial in Brooklyn. Guzman is shown in 2016 (left) and in a December 10 courtroom sketch (right)

All did so in a coldly calculated betrayal of Guzman that could benefit them in their own drug cases but the defense says also destroys their credibility. Flores, for one, bottom-lined how he flipped on a kingpin this way: ‘I was trying to set him up.’

Martinez, 52, was in court on December 10, testifying that, starting in 2000, he oversaw a Guzman scheme to transport cocaine all the way from Mexico to the New York City area by train using cooking oil tankers with secret compartments. 

He estimated he made as much as $20million from the cocaine train operation before he decided to quit because of ‘too much pressure’ from Guzman over losses from seizures.

‘They wanted to kill me because I had lost the train route,’ Martinez said. ‘I just didn’t want to keep going.’

While on the stand, Martinez – who made more money than he knew what to do with – said that he had used some of the cash to buy soccer teams in Mexico, earning him the nickname ‘El Futbolista,’ which means ‘soccer player’. 

A courtroom drawing of Pedro Flores (right) testifying during Guzman’s trial on December 18

Pedro Flores (left) and twin brother Margarito Flores, were known as ‘the twins’ in the Sinaloa cartel circle. Guzman sought them out for their expertise in distributing cocaine to urban centers in the U.S.

Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa was among those testifying against former boss Guzman during his Brooklyn trial. Cifuentes is seen here in 2012 as he’s deported from Venezuela to Columbia

Tirso Martinez Sanchez (on December 10) testified about running a cocaine train for Guzman

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The downside of all that drug train wealth, however, was a gambling habit that led him to lose a bundle betting on cock fights.

Martinez also told the courtroom about some of the occupational hazards of living life as an outlaw: He said one of his former bosses shot himself in the head in a drunken ploy to avoid arrest, while another died on the operating table during a plastic surgery procedure to alter his appearance – an outcome that didn’t stop Martinez from getting his own face redone.

Unlike Martinez, 55-year-old Cifuentes seemed to have had a slightly less flashy experience while working for Guzman. 

During his testimony December 13, Cifuentes outlined extreme family dysfunction, describing how his father drafted him at just four years old to help move illegal cigarettes and booze through the port in Medellin, Colombia.

Cifuentes testified that many of his eight siblings were in the drug trade and that they had ‘conflicts like any other family.’ 

He admitted on cross-examination that his brother had ordered the killing of his nephew, but he explained it was because the nephew wanted to kidnap his own grandmother.

Cifuentes eventually began shipping Colombian cocaine to the Sinaloa cartel using airplanes made of carbon to deflect radar detection. 

He described meeting Guzman at his ranch in 2003 where there was a celebration for the second anniversary of the the drug lord’s escape from prison.

Getting there wasn’t easy: A small plane took him to a landing strip that was so short and sharply inclined that he started praying and telling himself that if he survived he would buy Guzman a helicopter so he ‘would fly in a more civilized way.’

Guzman (in 2016) faces life behind bars if convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, murder conspiracy, and other charges

Guzman (in January 2017) as he’s extradited from Mexico to the US to face charges in New York

At another meeting in 2009, Cifuentes said he shared a joint with Guzman, who asked how strong it was before he took a smoke. He wasn’t impressed. ‘This does nothing to me,’ he said. 

Also testifying against Guzman recently was Pedro Flores. 

He and his twin brother, Margarito Flores, were known simply as ‘the twins’ in Sinaloa cartel circle – identical twin brothers from the streets of Chicago who became so good at distributing cocaine to urban centers in the U.S. that Guzman sought them out.

Pedro took the witness stand December 18 to testify about their wildly lucrative business partnership with Guzman, still exhibiting a sense of awe about the defendant not shown by more-hardened cooperators. 

While others simply referred to Guzman as Chapo, Spanish for ‘shorty,’ Pedro kept calling him ‘The Man.’

Pedro, 37, described how, after becoming a fugitive in Mexico, he and his brother continued running their U.S. network with enough success that he was summoned to a meeting with Guzman in mountains in Sinaloa. 

He and Guzman’s cohorts were driving up a road to the compound when he was startled to see a naked man, apparently being tortured.

‘He was tied to a tree with a chain,’ Perdo said, adding that he never learned what happened to him.

In another odd twist, he recounted discussing concerns about the ‘cover loads’ used to disguise drug shipments stashed in trucks – in this instance, 150 live sheep he had to pay $10,000 to put out to pasture.

The stresses of the job and the dangers of a bloody civil war within the cartel convinced Pedro to commit mutiny by contacting U.S narcotics agents. 

He agreed to record telephone calls, played for the jury, in which an unsuspecting Guzman could be heard calling him his ‘amigo.’

By associating with Guzman, Pedro said, ‘I couldn’t promise my family a tomorrow, you know?’

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