(CNSNews.com) – Shortly after a federal jury in New York on Tuesday found the notorious Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” guilty of drug trafficking, weapons violations and other counts, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) drew attention to his pending legislation to have the gangster’s seized assets used to secure the Southwest border, “including the completion of a wall.”
Once Joaquin Guzmán Lorea, the former leader of the Sinaloa drug, is sentenced – sentencing scheduled for June 25 and he faces mandatory life in prison – the federal government will seek a judgment making forfeit “billions of dollars constituting the cartel’s illegal drug-trafficking proceeds,” the Department of Justice confirmed on Tuesday.
The sums involved are estimated at around $14 billion – far more than the $5.7 billion President Trump requested for a border barrier. Congressional Democrats have opposed the funding, and a $1.375 billion “compromise” deal is now under consideration.
“America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts,” Cruz tweeted after the verdict was announced. “U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder.”
Last month, Cruz reintroduced legislation seeking to do just that – the “Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act,’’ or the “EL CHAPO Act.”
“Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way to secure our southern border, and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals,” he said at the time. “By leveraging any criminally forfeited assets of El Chapo and other murderous drug lords, we can offset the cost of securing our border and make meaningful progress toward delivering on the promises made to the American people.”
Cruz first introduced the measure in April 2017, three months after Guzmán Lorea was extradited to the U.S. A fugitive from justice after escaping from custody in 2001 and again in 2015, he had finally been recaptured in a special forces raid on Mexico’s west coast in early 2016.
Cruz’ 2017 bill was co-sponsored by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and a companion House bill was sponsored by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) with 14 Republican co-sponsors. Both were referred to the respective Senate and House Judiciary committees and progressed no further.
At the time, Cruz said he saw “justice” in the proposed use of the money for border security.
“These drug cartels are the ones crossing the border with impunity, smuggling drugs, smuggling narcotics, engaged in human trafficking,” he told Fox News. “They’re the ones violating our laws. It is only fitting that their ill-gotten gains fund securing the border.”
The 2019 measures were introduced again last month, again by Cruz and Brooks respectively. The House version now has 24 co-sponsors, all Republican.
The bill applies not only to Guzmán Lorea’s assets, but also to those that may be forfeited to the government as a result of other felony convictions of a drug cartel member for transporting controlled substances into the United States.
Such assets, it says, “shall be reserved for security measures along the border between the United States and Mexico, including the completion of a wall along such border, for the purpose of stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States and furthering the security of the United States.”
Tuesday’s verdict came after a 12-week trial in Brooklyn, New York.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York said afterwards the 61-year-old had been “held accountable for the tons of illegal narcotics he trafficked for more than two decades, the murders he ordered and committed, and the billions of dollars he reaped while causing incalculable pain and suffering to those devastated by his drugs.”
“As was clear to the jury, Guzmán Loera’s massive, multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise was responsible for flooding the streets of the United States with hundreds of tons of cocaine, as well as enormous quantities of other dangerous drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine,” said Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
According to evidence in the trial, the cartel generated billions of dollars in drug sales – with wholesale distributors in Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and elsewhere – and the funds were then clandestinely transported back to Mexico
“When sentenced by Judge [U.S. District Judge Brian] Cogan, Guzmán Loera faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for leading a continuing criminal enterprise, and a sentence of up to life imprisonment on the seven remaining drug counts,” the Department of Justice said.
“After the verdict, the government will seek a forfeiture money judgment for billions of dollars constituting the cartel’s illegal drug-trafficking proceeds.”