An ex-DEA agent describes how he helped hunt down 'El Chapo' — and confronted him wearing the cartel kingpin's own hat

El CHapo capture

  • The Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman broke out of jail and was on the run for 13 years.
  • US authorities assisted Mexico with the hunt, helping bring down Guzman in early 2014.
  • But that stint in jail would be short-lived.

By 2010, when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Drew Hogan arrived in Mexico City with his family, the Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been on the run for nine years.

The Sinaloa cartel chief had slipped out of a prison in southwest Mexico during the first weeks of 2001 — some say while hiding in a laundry basket.

Once on the ground in Mexico, Hogan picked up the trail “by looking at the details,” he said.

“It was in the details — in the numbers,” he told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview on Wednesday about his latest book, “Hunting El Chapo.”

“The phone numbers don’t lie,” Hogan said. “And I was able to pair up with a crack team of Homeland Security investigative agents, and we began intercepting members of Chapo’s inner circle and … starting to dismantle layers within his sophisticated communications structure until we got to the top, where I had his personal secretary’s device, who was standing right next to him, and I could ping that to establish a pattern of life to determine where he was at.”

The search for Guzman led authorities to his home turf in Sinaloa state, in northwest Mexico.

El Chapo Guzman capture

Sinaloa, where Guzman was born and got his start in the drug trade, is considered a cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, producing figures like the Guadalajara cartel chiefs Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero; the Sinaloa cartel chiefs Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul”; and others, like the Juarez cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “the Lord of the Skies,” and members of the Arellano Felix family, who ran the Tijuana cartel in the 1990s and 2000s.

Hogan’s search eventually led to Mazatlan, a resort town in southwestern Sinaloa state. There, Guzman had lived what Hogan described as an unremarkable lifestyle.

“I was surprised with the way that he lived,” Hogan said on Wednesday. “He almost afforded himself no luxury — same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”

After 13 years on the run, however, Guzman had begun to let his guard down, venturing out of the rugged Sinaloa mountains to relax in Mazatlan and nearby Culiacan, the state capital.

DEA agent Drew Hogan Today show

Several of his associates were captured or killed in the first weeks of 2014.

Near the end of February that year, Mexican marines stormed a house belonging to Guzman’s ex-wife, but they struggled to knock down a steel-reinforced door, allowing Guzman time to escape.

A few days later, they launched another raid targeting the elusive kingpin.

“We were at the Hotel Miramar,” Hogan said. “He was on the fourth floor, and … the Mexican marines went inside and started banging down doors. I was standing outside. I was worried about our perimeter. I was worried about him escaping us again. And I heard excited radio chatter: ‘They got him. They got him. They got the target.’

“My vehicle was first in. I drove it down to the underground parking garage, and that’s where they had him,” Hogan continued. “They were just standing him up. I got out of my vehicle, ran right up to him, I’m wearing this black ball cap that I had taken out of his closet … in Culiacan — my only souvenir of the hunt — wearing a black ski mask, and I ran right up to up to him, jumped into his face, and said the first thing that came to my head.

“I screamed, ‘What’s up, Chapo?!'”

Guzman’s capture was heralded in Mexico and abroad and held up by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a hallmark achievement of his efforts to combat criminal groups and drug-related violence in the country.

But Guzman’s time in prison was short-lived. In July 2015, the Sinaloa cartel chief again slipped out, this time through a mile-long tunnel dug from a partially constructed house to the Altiplano maximum-security prison and right up to the shower in Guzman’s cell.

“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said of Guzman’s escape. “This tunnel that went underneath the prison was the same types of tunnels that went underneath the safe houses, were the same types of tunnels that are at the US-Mexico border.”

A motorcycle modified to run on rails is seen inside a tunnel connected to the Altiplano Federal Penitentiary and used by drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to escape, in Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City, July 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Numerous security lapses were discovered in the aftermath.

Altiplano had the same layout as the prison Guzman broke out of in 2001. (A former Mexican security official who joined the Sinaloa cartel is suspected of stealing the prison plans.)

Reports indicated that a geolocation device Guzman had to wear may have been used by his associates to locate him within the prison. Guzman told Mexican officials his henchmen were able to build two tunnels under the prison after the first one missed the cell.

Sounds of digging under his cell were detected but not investigated, and about 30 minutes passed between when Guzman went out of sight in his cell and when jailers responded to his absence.

“It was coming if they didn’t have him on complete lockdown,” Hogan said.

Guzman’s freedom after the 2015 breakout was brief. He made his way back to Sinaloa, where Mexican authorities picked up the trail, conducting a search that frequently put civilians under fire.

But Guzman was apprehended in January 2016, spending another year in Mexico — a stint marked by more fear about another breakout — before his extradition to the US in January 2017, just a few hours before President Donald Trump took office.

Guzman is now locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. His trial is set to start in September in Brooklyn.

SEE ALSO: The son of one of Mexico’s most powerful kingpins describes growing up in the narco underworld — ‘in a golden cage’

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[WATCH] 'Criminal Minds' Sneak Peek: The BAU Takes Charge of a Hostage Situation Where Simmons' Wife Works – BuddyTV (blog)

The BAU takes charge of a hostage situation at a law firm in D.C. in Criminal Minds season 13 episode 19. It may not be the usual kind of case they work, but it’s going to be one of the most important because Simmons’ wife works at the firm.

Criminal Minds Season 13 Spoilers: Garcia’s Family, an Agent’s Bizarre Story and a Finale Cliffhanger>>>

Watch the promo for “Ex Parte”:

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See Simmons find out his wife’s in a hostage situation:

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After a call from the director, Prentiss tells Rossi and Simmons that the BAU is to take charge of a hostage situation in progress downtown. Simmons double-checks the location, and Prentiss confirms. The Hostage Rescue Team is on its way. That’s when Simmons reveals that his wife, Kristy, just started working there a few weeks ago.

13 Scariest Murderers on TV>>>

See what they know about the situation:

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At the scene, Commander Nash tells J.J., Tara and Luke they received multiple reports of shots fired and then the elevators went down. When building security responded, they found bricks of C4 wired to all the doors into the ALDC offices. It doesn’t look like it’s enough to bring down the building, but it’s enough to kill everyone up there.

They have no idea how many hostage takers there are because they don’t have eyes on the inside. (They took out their fiber-optic cameras, so they’re bringing in thermal imaging.) J.J. guesses with 26 hostages (by badge count), there are two or three UnSubs.

As for communicating with the outside, while the hostage-takers haven’t made an effort to establish a line, Luke says they are talking with them, by hacking into the building’s operating systems and trying to let them know they think they’re in charge. That’s a job for Garcia.

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image/videos courtesy of CBS)


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Trump Under Investigation By Special Counsel But Not As A Criminal Target – NPR

When President Trump was asked on March 22 whether he still wanted to testify before special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump said: “Yes. I would like to.”

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Special counsel Robert Mueller notified President Trump’s lawyers last month that the president is being investigated as part of the Russia probe, but a source familiar with the situation says they were told Trump was not a criminal target at that time.

The source declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter but did confirm the details first reported by the The Washington Post.

There have been ongoing discussions between Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team about the president sitting for an interview as part of the investigation. Trump has said he wants to speak with Mueller. Asked on March 22 whether he still wanted to testify before special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump said: “Yes. I would like to.”

John Dowd, the lawyer who had been leading Trump’s legal team until he resigned late last month, reportedly was at odds with the president and others on the legal team about whether it was a good idea for Trump to sit for an interview with Mueller. Dowd was against it.

Asked about the Post story, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said: “We do not discuss real or alleged conversations between our legal team and the Office of Special Counsel.” Ty Cobb, the lawyer in the White House handling the Mueller probe, declined to comment.

The Washington Post story also says Mueller told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice and that he needed to interview Trump to complete that phase of his investigation. NPR has not confirmed this part of the story. The Washington Post report adds:

The president has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview, the people said. He has repeatedly told allies that he is not a target of the probe and believes an interview will help him put the matter behind him, friends said.

However, legal experts said Mueller’s description of Trump as a subject of a grand jury probe does not mean he is in the clear.

Under Justice Department guidelines, a subject of an investigation is a person whose conduct falls within the scope of a grand jury’s investigation. A target is a person for which there is substantial evidence linking him or her to a crime.

There also remains a legal question about whether a sitting president can be indicted for a crime. As NPR’s Carrie Johnson reported last year, it is a debate as old as the country itself:

Most constitutional lawyers agree a president can be investigated. But the consensus breaks down when it comes to what happens next. “The president cannot be indicted, prosecuted and tried while serving in office,” Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told Fox News last month.

Dershowitz pointed out the Justice Department has twice concluded that indicting a sitting president would undermine the executive branch and its duties under the Constitution.

“The only mechanism the Constitution provides is he could be impeached and once impeached and removed from office he could then be charged with a criminal trial,” Dershowitz said.

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