Secret testimony of Chicago twins who took on ‘El Chapo’
It’s more than five years since they provided the evidence that helped bring down the inner circle of the world’s most wanted criminal.
For their own safety, Chicago drug-dealing twins Margarito and Pedro Flores have been quietly hidden away in protective custody ever since.
But now prosecutors have pulled back the curtain a little on the largest drug case ever made in Illinois, publicly revealing for the first time the secret testimony that the Flores brothers turned against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.
“My name is Pedro Flores,” the first of the brothers testified amid tight security before a federal grand jury in June 2009. “From 2006 through 2008, we were coordinating, at its peak, the distribution in Chicago to our customer base of 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine per month.”
The brothers’ stunning statements about the $60-million-a-month business resulted in charges against 13 defendants, including Guzman himself. They were filed in advance of the Nov. 24 sentencing of Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez, who prosecutors allege was a lifelong friend of Guzman, his international logistics chief, and the godfather to his son, Alfredillo.
Both brothers admitted they used Chicago as a distribution hub for shipping dope to 30 wholesale customers in New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles and Vancouver. They testified that Vasquez-Hernandez — known as “Alfredo Compadre” — helped arrange the shipments.
“On behalf of Chapo . . . Alfredo organized the transportation of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico in airplanes; was involved in the transportation of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico in submarines and “submergibles,” or semi-submersible vessels . . . and facilitated the transportation of cocaine in rail cars,” Margarito Flores testified.
The brothers said they invested in the submarines with Vasquez-Hernandez, and paid him $600,000 to set up a furniture company that they used as a front for importing dope into Chicago in the walls of rail cars and trucks.
Margarito Flores testified that Vasquez-Hernandez also had explained to him how Guzman used his Boeing 747 cargo planes to ship dope from South America, by filling the planes with clothing and disguising the flights as “part of a humanitarian aid mission.”
Also included in the recent filing by prosecutors was a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation in which Vasquez-Hernandez and the Flores brothers haggle over the price of 76 kilos of cocaine, and discuss their taste in luxury cars.
At one point, Vasquez-Hernandez drools over a Porsche owned by Alex Gonzalez, the drummer from the Mexican band Mana, and appears to boast that he took a Lamborghini belonging to Guzman’s son for a spin.
“I drive it during the day, so it can be seen. Otherwise, what the f— is it for then?,” he is quoted as saying.
Vasquez-Hernandez, though, denies he had any part in Guzman’s organization. In a letter to the court last month, he said he was “ashamed” of his actions but admitted only to the single drug deal to which he plead guilty to earlier this year.
His attorney, Paul Brayman, disputed the accuracy of the transcript of the recorded conversation and said the 59-year-old deserves only 10 years behind bars, far less than the sentence of 30 years to life prosecutors have asked for.
Vasquez-Hernandez’s sentencing promises to be the highest-profile U.S. court hearing involving the Sinaloa cartel since Guzman’s dramatic February arrest in Mexico. It remains unclear if Guzman will ever be extradited to face American justice.
Although the Flores brothers’ statements have previously been summarized by prosecutors, the statements filed for Vasquez-Hernandez’s sentencing are the first time the brothers have publicly discussed the risks they took by cooperating with the government in return for reduced sentences.
“With some assistance from the DEA and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pedro and I moved our wives, our children, our brother and his wife and children, our two sisters and their children, our father, our mother, and the mother of two of my children,” Margarito Flores said.
“I know that once the people I have talked about today found out I was cooperating, they would try to kill me and my family.”