Texas grand jury indicts Sinaloa cartel leaders

Texas grand jury indicts Sinaloa cartel leaders
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 7:52am

A U.S. federal grand jury in Texas has indicted the suspected top leaders of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia face murder and conspiracy charges connected with drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime.

The indictment, returned April 11 and unsealed Tuesday, also charges 22 other people who prosecutors allege are connected with the cartel.

It is one of several U.S. federal indictments charging Guzman, who is widely known as Mexico's most wanted fugitive and has made Forbes magazine's list of the world's most powerful people.

"It's a reminder we're right behind him, that he can't live out in the open. We need to get them apprehended," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Franco said Tuesday.

This month's indictment in western Texas detailed two acts of violence prosecutors said were committed by members of the cartel, including the 2010 kidnapping of an American citizen and two members of his family during a wedding ceremony in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, because of their ties with the rival Juarez cartel.

The target was the groom and a resident of Columbus, New Mexico, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas said in a statement.

Police found the bodies of the groom, his brother and his uncle three days after the wedding in the bed of a pickup truck, according to the indictment.

The indictment also describes the 2009 kidnapping, killing and mutilation of a Texas resident "to answer for the loss of a 670-pound load of marijuana seized by the Border Patrol," prosecutors said.

Investigators found the Texas resident's body in Ciudad Juarez, according to the indictment.

"He had been beaten and strangled and his hands had been severed above the wrists and placed on his chest, to serve as a warning to those who might attempt to steal from the cartel," the indictment says.

Guzman and Zambada have been indicted on drug trafficking and organized crime charges in a number of U.S. federal courts. U.S. officials have offered a $5 million reward for information leading to their capture.

Guzman was arrested in 1993 on homicide and drug charges but escaped in 2001, reportedly by bribing prison guards to smuggle him out in a laundry truck. A Mexican federal investigation led to the arrest of more than 70 prison officials.

Forbes magazine has placed him on its list of the world's most powerful people, reporting his net worth of $1 billion as of March.

Rumors regularly surge about his whereabouts.

Franco declined to comment on whether there was new information regarding Guzman's location.

He described Guzman as "a man who has unlimited means, more money than most people in Mexico."

"It affords him the ability to hide," Franco added.

The Sinaloa Cartel, named after the Mexican state where the gang was formed, is one of the most powerful drug-trafficking groups in the nation.

CNN's Ed Lavandera and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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