Then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown announces the seizure of more than 550 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, some seen at right, following infiltration of the Sinaloa drug cartel in August 2009. He says drugs smuggled into California by the cartel ended up in cities including Chicago. (AP Photo/Imperial Valley Press, Joselito N. Villero)
Photo: Imperial Valley Press/ Joselito N. Villero/AP395.ac.ft.drugwar.califoriabust1952pxxSS.jpg156935567
Flanked by military officers, Vicente Zambada-Niebla stands before the press in Mexico City in March 2009.
Military officers in Mexico City keep watch on Vicente Zambada-Niebla (front, third from left) and five men presented as his bodyguards a day after Zambada-Niebla’s arrest in March 2009.
Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP
The abandoned car of Little Village resident Margarito Flores Sr. was discovered in western Mexico’s Sinaloa desert in 2009. A message directed to his twin sons, Pedro and Margarito, was stuck to its windshield: tell those fuckers to shut up or we are going to send you his head.
The Flores twins, 31-year-old Chicago drug traffickers, had warned their father not to return to Mexico, and especially not to the drug-war-torn state of Sinaloa, home to the Sinaloa cartel, which U.S. intelligence considers one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.
Margarito Sr. was never heard from again.
The brothers, now in U.S. custody and acting as informants in a plea deal whose details remain secret, will be the star witnesses in the Chicago trial of Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a head of the Sinaloa cartel and the biggest Mexican drug kingpin ever to be prosecuted in a U.S. courtroom. A status hearing on October 9 will set a new date for the trial, which has been delayed several times.
In court filings, Zambada-Niebla’s lawyers claim he, like the Flores brothers, was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and that in exchange for intel on rival cartels, the U.S. government turned a blind eye as “tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States.” In the months building up to the trial, a litany of court documents has been released that describe Chicago as a major distribution hub. The filings also suggest that damning details will be revealed about U.S. cooperation with some of the world’s most powerful narcos.