Apparently, drug lords are now saving U.S. authorities the trouble of having to go through a long-winded extradition procedure by self-surrendering at the border with arms stretched forward and palms up for the handcuffs. That’s what Sinaloa Cartel cell leader Damaso Lopez-Serrano, nicknamed “Mini Lic,” did when he surrendered to United States law enforcement authorities at the Calexico West Port of Entry on July 27.
29-year-old Lopez-Serrano (photo above) is believed to be the highest-ranking Mexican cartel leader ever to self-surrender in the United States. On Monday, he was arraigned on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Diego on August 19, 2016, charging him and five of his close associates, including Nahum Sicairos-Montalvo, known by the nickname “Kinceanero,” with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances intended for importation and conspiracy to import controlled substances.
Lopez-Serrano did not seek bond and will remain in custody. A status hearing is scheduled for November 2, 2017 at 10 a.m. He faces a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence and up to life imprisonment if convicted.
The indictment returned December 4, 2016, in the Eastern District of Virginia charges father and son, Damaso Lopez Nunez and Damaso Lopez Serrano, respectively, with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances intended for importation. Damaso Lopez Nunez was arrested by Mexican authorities on May 2, 2017, and the United States is in the process of seeking his extradition on the December 4 indictment. Lopez Serrano will be arraigned on this indictment at a future date.
The Southern District of California indictment unsealed on Monday August 7 marks the conclusion of the fourth phase of a five-year investigation that, in total, has resulted in charges against over 125 people and has had a significant impact on the worldwide operations of the Sinaloa Cartel.
This investigation has also offered one of the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels. Cartel members and associates were targeted in this massive investigation involving multiple countries, numerous law enforcement agencies around the United States, a number of federal districts and over 250 court-authorized wiretaps in this district alone.
This case began in late 2011 as an investigation of what was at first believed to be a small-scale drug distribution cell in National City and Chula Vista. It became evident that the drugs were being supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel, and the case evolved into a massive multi-national, multi-state probe that resulted in scores of arrests and seizures of 1,397 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2,214 kilograms of cocaine, 17.2 tons of marijuana, 95.84 kilograms of heroin, and $27,892,706.00 in narcotics proceeds.
The primary indictment in this investigation was previously unsealed targeting the alleged leader of the cartel, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, known as “El Mayo,” as well as two of his four sons - Ismael Zambada-Sicairos, known as “Mayito Flaco,” and Ismael Zambada-Imperial, known as “Mayito Gordo.” Zambada-Imperial was arrested by Mexican authorities in November 2014 and is pending extradition to the Southern District of California. Also part of that indictment is Ivan Archivaldo Guzman-Salazar, known as “Chapito,” whose father Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was the alleged leader of the Sinaloa Cartel along with Mayo.
As part of this investigation, U.S. authorities previously arrested and prosecuted another son of Mayo - Serafin Zambada-Ortiz, who pleaded guilty in the Southern District of California in September 2014 to drug trafficking charges.
José Rodrigo Aréchiga-Gamboa, commonly referred to by his alias “El Chino Ántrax,” was arrested in the Netherlands, extradited to the United States by Dutch authorities in July 2014 and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in May 2015. Arechiga-Gamboa is believed to have worked for the Sinaloa Cartel as the leader of a violent enforcement arm of the Sinaloa Cartel called “Los Antrax” and a key lieutenant of Mayo.
“At a time when more Americans than ever are dying from drug overdoses, the Department of Justice has made it a top priority to target the Mexican Cartel leaders responsible for the dangerous drugs that poison our families,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We will continue to go after these cartel leaders in order to dismantle their organizations from top to bottom, and today’s announcement should send them a clear message: you can turn yourselves in the easy way, or we will find you and bring you to justice the hard way. No matter what, you will face the consequences.”
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