Member of Mexican Sinaloa Cartel Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy and to Soliciting the Murder of a Federal Witness
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 07, 2009|
NASHVILLE, TN—Edward M. Yarbrough, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, announced that Salvador Guzman pleaded guilty on December 1, 2009, to a large-scale cocaine conspiracy and to twice soliciting the murder of a witness.
“International drug traffickers have targeted our district, but we are ready to meet that challenge,” stated United States Attorney Edward M. Yarbrough. “Those drug traffickers who are brazen enough to attempt murder in order to protect their criminal enterprises will not be tolerated. Efforts to kill witnesses strike at the heart of our criminal justice system. This case proves that such efforts will not pay off.”
According to the statement of facts presented at the plea hearing, Salvador Guzman was a member of the Mexico-based Sinaloa drug-trafficking cartel. Guzman was involved in a conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana into the United States from the cartel in Mexico and reported to a cartel leader. Guzman directed the cartel’s drug business in Ohio and Tennessee. The cartel would import kilograms of cocaine by concealing the drugs in the drive shaft of different vehicles. Guzman would direct the drivers of these vehicles to different locations, dismantle the drive shafts, extract the cocaine, and deliver it to several customers. These customers, located in Ohio and Tennessee, would buy the cocaine from Guzman in multi-kilogram quantities.
Guzman was arrested on cocaine conspiracy charges on November 21, 2007 and was placed in custody pending trial.
While in jail, Guzman decided to have an individual, who he considered to be the main witness against him in his federal drug case, killed. On two occasions, Guzman hired an individual to murder this individual.
The first time was between July and October 2008. Guzman met an inmate in jail who was awaiting state court charges. Guzman put together $7,500 in cash to help this inmate make bond so that the inmate could get out of jail and kill the witness. Guzman told this inmate that his cartel leader would give him either a kilogram of cocaine or $20,000 to kill the witness.
This inmate did not kill the witness, but lied to Guzman, telling him that he had done so. Thinking the witness had been killed, Guzman directed the individual to travel to Mexico and meet the cartel leader. The individual traveled to Mexico, but the cartel leader would not meet with him unless and until he was provided proof that the witness was dead. The individual returned to the United States upset that the cartel leader would not see him in Mexico but did not confront Guzman.
Meanwhile, Guzman’s trial on the original cocaine conspiracy charges was scheduled for March 31, 2009. In the days leading up to the trial, however, Guzman solicited the murder of the witness a second time.
This attempt began on March 18, 2009. At this time, the individual who Guzman had once hired to kill the witness was now working with the FBI. In a series of telephone calls, the individual told Guzman that the witness was still alive. Guzman seemed surprised, but the individual explained that he had hired his cousin to commit the murder they had planned before, but that his cousin killed the wrong person. The individual explained to Guzman that he would now be able to kill the witness. Guzman asked this individual to kill the witness and when the individual agreed, Guzman explained how to fashion a homemade silencer for a .357 firearm.
As a result of this activity, Guzman was charged with two counts of soliciting the murder of a witness. On December 1, 2009, he pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting murder for hire and one count of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. He entered into a binding plea agreement with the government that will result in his being sentenced to 25 years in prison for these charges.
Judge Aleta Trauger accepted the plea agreement at the hearing, stating that she was agreeable to sentencing the defendant to 25 years' imprisonment. The period of supervised release after that term of imprisonment, and any fine will be decided by the court at sentencing. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 1, 2010 at 2:30 p.m., before Judge Trauger.
This case was investigated by agents of the FBI and the DEA. Assistant United States Attorneys Heather G. Childs and Sunny A. M. Koshy are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.