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Sweeping federal indictments issued against 60 Sinaloa cartel members

Federal officials unseal sweeping indictments against 60 members of Sinaloa drug cartel

Federal authorities in San Diego have announced sweeping indictments against 60 members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, accusing individuals ranging from its top leaders down to the operators of drug distribution cells in Southern California of conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering.

The indictment unsealed Friday was just the latest for the cartel’s top boss, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, 67, who also has outstanding cases against him in Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

Zambada, who is wanted by the U.S. for a reward up to $5 million, is believed to have taken over the cartel’s leadership after last year’s capture of long-wanted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

The cases also targeted the up-and-coming leadership of the cartel, including two of Zambada’s sons -- Ismael Zambada-Sicairos, known as “Mayito Flaco,” and Ismael Zambada-Imperial, known as “Mayito Gordo” -- and Guzman’s son Ivan Archivaldo Guzman-Salazar, known as “Chapito.”

All but Zambada-Imperial, who was captured by Mexican authorities in November, remain at large.

In court papers, prosecutors described the cartel’s wide-reaching, large-scale operations in trafficking massive amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana to the United States and other countries.

They alleged that the cartel imported drugs and drug precursor chemicals from as far away as Asia and utilized cargo aircraft, submarines, container ships and tractor trailers to transport large quantities of drugs.

Over the course of the three-year investigation, which arose out of a probe into drug distribution rings in National City and Chula Vista, authorities seized 652 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1,343 kilograms of cocaine, 12.2 tons of marijuana, 53 kilograms of heroin, 5,500 Oxycodone pills and $14.1 million in narcotics proceeds, prosecutors said.

Investigators conducted more than 200 court-authorized wiretaps to map out the cartel’s inner workings, according to prosecutors.

As part of the indictment against the cartel’s leaders, prosecutors were also seeking to forfeit big-ticket items allegedly purchased with drug money: A 1982 Cessna Turbo 210 aircraft, two Lamborghinis and a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.

For news on the courts, follow @vicjkim

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