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El Chapo's brother indicted in Tucson for drug trafficking, U.S. offers $5M reward

Guzmán-Loera allegedly took over as high-ranking member of Sinaloa cartel

Federal officials in Tucson unsealed two indictments against Aureliano Guzmán-Loera—the brother of the notorious drug kingpin known as "El Chapo"—charging him and several other high-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel with international drug trafficking.

Following the public release of the indictments, U.S. officials announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Aureliano Guzmán-Loera, and the other men.

On Nov. 13, 2019 and Feb. 19, 2020, a federal grand jury returned superseding indictments against Guzmán-Loera, and brothers Ruperto, Jose, and Heriberto Salgueiro-Nevarez of Guadalupe Y Calvo, Mexico, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona announced Friday evening. Three other defendants are named only by aliases, while an eighth defendant's name is redacted in court documents.

Guzmán-Loera faces multiple federal charges of international distribution of controlled substances, including fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana over several years as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzmán-Loera, known as "El Guano," stepped into that role after his brother, Joaquin Guzmán-Loera was captured by Mexican authorities in 2016 and extradited to the U.S., where he was found guilty for drug trafficking and sentenced to prison in 2019.

The Salgueiro-Nevarez brothers allegedly operate a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel known as the SNO, which stands for the Salgueiro-Nevarez Organization, federal officials said.

Two years ago, federal judges approved dozens of requests to gather cellphone data and messages linked to BlackBerry devices tied to Guzmán-Loera. The wiretaps showed Guzman-Loera was running an extensive drug-trafficking operation in northern Mexico, Arizona and Texas, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The applications, filed by federal prosecutors on behalf of Homeland Security Investigations—a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—described how El Guano was using a BlackBerry to discuss "high-level Sinaloa Cartel operational business," and a judge allowed agents to gather data tied to the BlackBerry.

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It was the El Chapo's penchant for BlackBerry phones that ultimately undid the cartel leader after the FBI managed to intercept hundreds of calls from Guzmán, and hundreds more from his lieutenants and family members by turning the cartel's IT manager, Christian Rodriguez.

The FBI's operation was unveiled during El Chapo's trial in 2019 when FBI agent Stephen Marston described how they convinced Rodriguez to circumvent the secure network he created for Guzmán. Later, Rodriguez moved the cartel's computer servers to the Netherlands where the FBI  and Dutch authorities compromised the cartel's phones.

This included the installation of spy software on at least 50 BlackBerry phones that could be used to read text messages and steal passwords from the owners, Marston explained.

Homeland Security Investigations is conducting the investigation in this case, federal officials said, adding that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson is handling the prosecution.

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Joaquin Archivaldo Guzmán-Loera, otherwise known as 'El Chapo' was extradited to the U.S. and was found guilty by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York in 2019. His brother Aureliano was indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson, according to indictments unsealed by federal officials Friday.