Ex-prison official details second career as El Chapo fixer

NEW YORK (AP) — After escaping a Mexican prison in 2001, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman recruited a former security chief from the same lockup as a fixer for his Sinaloa cartel, a jury was told Tuesday at a U.S. trial where the kingpin and his wife made a fashion statement.

The former official, Damaso Lopez Nunez, described how he first met Guzman when the kingpin asked for contraband in exchange for cash bribes at the prison in the state of Jalisco, Lopez testified, adding that the drug lord also gave him a house. Lopez quit his job before Guzman famously escaped in 2001 by hiding in a laundry bin, he said.

The defendant’s wife listened to the testimony while wearing a burgundy-colored, velvet blazer that matched one sported by her husband, leading to speculation that it was a show of solidarity.

The testimony from Lopez came with the government winding down a case that began in mid-November and has featured a parade of cooperators who described Guzman’s exploits as the boss of the Sinaloa cartel. His lawyers say he’s being made a scapegoat by unsavory cooperators trying to get breaks in their own drug cases.

Lopez described a meeting where Guzman told him that he decided to flee prison after learning through a government source that there was an order for his extradition. “The plan for his escape was spontaneous,” he said.

Guzman was upset because some prison guards were being falsely accused of helping him breakout when it was only the work of one guard nicknamed El Chito. “He told me they had been unjustly detained,” Lopez said.

Lopez, 52, went on to become a fixer for the Sinaloa cartel. He described paying various “government contacts” to provide confidential information about law enforcement operations against the cartel and helping coordinate sicarios to protect turf and kill informants, sometimes in gun battles.

The jury also heard testimony Tuesday from Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, a former state legislator who claimed her affair with Guzman ruined her political career. She testified that she was tossed out of office in 2016 following press reports that she had visited “El Senor” in prison.

Sanchez said she had publicly denied being involved with him out of fear for her life.

“I started receiving death threats from El Senor’s enemies,” she said.

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