Reputed El Chapo Aid Faces Trafficking Charges in Chicago

Felipe “The Engineer” Cabrera Sarabia has been extradited to the United States where he will face federal charges in a Chicago courtroom. Sarabia is a top aide for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former Sinaloa cartel boss.


Sarabia is now 50 years old and is believed to have overseen marijuana operations in Mexico prior to his arrest in 2011. Sarabia pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges. If he is convicted, he could face life in prison.


The Charges


Federal authorities are accusing Sarabia of using jumbo jets, submarines, and underground tunnels to funnel thousands of tons of drugs into the United States. It is believed that these drugs were then passed to major regional distributors in Chicago and sold wholesale. 


El Chapo is serving a life sentence in New York after being convicted of drug trafficking charges and conspiracy to commit murder. Sarabia is believed to be one of El Chapo’s chief aides who was responsible for heading up security for many of the cartel’s operations. 


As one of America’s largest cities and with a centralized location that allowed distribution across the United States, Chicago became one of the main distribution centers for El Chapo’s smuggling operation. 


El Chapo was brought down by the testimony of Pedro Flores who, along with his twin brother Margarito, rose through the ranks to become El Chapo’s top henchmen. Flores provided testimony that the brothers were responsible for handling shipments as they came into the U.S. These shipments included tons of heroin and cocaine that made its way into Chicago for broader distribution across the U.S.


The Flores’ testimony also led to the arrest of Vicente Zambada-Niebla who was recorded discussing drug shipments, obtaining weapons of war (such as grenades and explosives), and discussing attacking government buildings in Mexico as retaliation against law enforcement. Zambada-Niebla pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities to bring down his former boss. He is now serving a 15-year prison sentence. 


Mexican Nationals and Federal U.S. Charges


The United States can go after Mexican nationals who are engaged in extraordinary crimes from Mexico that impact the U.S. This legislation has been used to target Mexican cartels whose distribution networks target American streets. 


Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. and Mexico do have an extradition treaty drafted in 1980. The treaty allows the U.S. to make requests for extradition, but the Mexican government and judges still have the ultimate say over whether or not the prisoner is released to the U.S. to face charges. There are other caveats as well. Firstly, the individual must have either committed a crime that is punishable in both Mexico and the U.S. or, the individual must have already been a national of the country requesting extradition. If the individual is not a national of the requesting party, then ultimately, the judge has the authority to approve or deny the petition.


Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today


Federal charges are different from state charges. If you are facing federal charges, you will be dealing with federal statutes, federal judges, federal law, the DEA, FBI, ATF, or other federal enforcement agencies. You will need an attorney who is capable of handling federal cases. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more about our services. 


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