‘El Mago,’ drug trafficker linked to son of Sinaloa cartel kingpin, gunned down in L.A.
A convicted drug trafficker linked to the Sinaloa cartel who worked for the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was gunned down Thursday morning in an industrial stretch of Willowbrook, according to authorities and court records.
Eduardo Escobedo, 39, was one of two men killed in the 14200 block of Towne Avenue, according to officials from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The other victim was Guillermo De Los Angeles Jr., 47.
Around 8 a.m. Thursday, sheriff’s deputies responded to an industrial area filled with warehouses, including a truck yard, pallet storage facility and a church. Escobedo and De Los Angeles died at the scene. A third man was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening gunshot wounds.
“It appears that there was some type of gathering or party at the location from last night to early this morning,” Lt. Omar Camacho told KABC-TV Channel 7 at the scene.
Escobedo, whose nickname, “El Mago,” translates to “The Magician,” served four years and nine months in federal prison for conspiring to distribute more than 10,000 kilograms of marijuana and laundering drug proceeds. He was released in 2018.
Raised in East Los Angeles, Escobedo rose to become the primary distributor of marijuana in Los Angeles for Guzman’s oldest son, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, a prosecutor said at a 2014 detention hearing. He laundered the proceeds in part by buying exotic cars and shipping them to Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa and the cartel’s stronghold.
Escobedo was also alleged to have ordered the death of a rival trafficker who was gunned down in his Bentley on the 101 Freeway in 2008. While Escobedo was never charged in the murder, his brother and another man were convicted and are serving life sentences.
Escobedo was born in the United States, his lawyer, Guadalupe Valencia, said at the detention hearing. He attended Garfield High School, where he met his wife, and later graduated from a continuation school, Valencia said.
In July 2011, Escobedo, then 27, was arrested leaving a stash house where police found a ton of marijuana, Adam Braverman, an assistant U.S. attorney, said at the detention hearing. Torrance police, which served the warrant, said the stash house was in the West Adams neighborhood.
In October 2013, Escobedo was caught on a wiretap speaking with Guzman Salazar about smuggling more than five tons of marijuana through a tunnel under the U.S.-Mexico border, Braverman said. Authorities seized 2.7 tons of cannabis from a courier working for Escobedo, according to the prosecutor.
Guzman Salazar remains one of Mexico’s most wanted men. One of his top lieutenants, Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, nicknamed “El Nini,” was captured by the Mexican National Guard earlier this week in Culiacan. Justice Department officials are seeking to extradite Pérez Salas, who is charged in two U.S. jurisdictions with conspiring to traffic methamphetamine, fentanyl and cocaine; laundering money; retaliating against witnesses; and possessing machine guns.
Escobedo was also helping Guzman Salazar launder money through the purchase of sports cars that were shipped to Culiacan, Braverman said. Federal agents determined that Escobedo used a false name to buy two Lamborghinis from a dealership in Newport Beach.
Braverman said Escobedo was stopped by the Irwindale police driving one of the cars, a $175,000-dollar Murcielago. The Lamborghini was purchased with a series of cash deposits just beneath the $10,000 threshold that triggers a bank reporting requirement, according to a warrant for the car’s seizure.
Agents listened on a wiretap as Guzman Salazar asked Escobedo to purchase a Nissan GTR and make $50,000 in modifications, Braverman said. Mexican authorities seized the Nissan in Culiacan in 2014, as well as a McLaren that Escobedo had bought in California for $175,000, the prosecutor said.
At the time of his arrest in 2014, Escobedo was living in a sprawling Granada Hills home with a pool and tennis court. Drug Enforcement Administration agents searched Escobedo and found him carrying a large amount of cash, four phones and keys to five different cars.
A father of four, Escobedo claimed his annual income of about $200,000 came from a business he owned with his wife, International Hair Authority, that imported hair extensions and sold them. Escobedo also reported owning a record label, Magic Records Corporation.
Braverman said agents suspected Escobedo was using the hair company’s accounts to launder drug money, pointing to a $50,000 wire transfer from a man named Harvinder Singh. Scotland Yard, the London police force, arrested Singh and his associates, who were shipping cocaine from Mexico to London on British Airways flights, Braverman said.
After pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute marijuana and launder money, Escobedo was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.
He was never charged in a murder that sent his younger brother to prison.
In 2008, police found a bullet-riddled silver Bentley Continental GT crashed on the center median of the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles. Jose Luis Macias, 25, was slumped behind the wheel. A bullet had gone through the back of his head.
Nicknamed “Huerito,” Macias worked for the Arellano Felix organization, a Tijuana-based cartel that rivals the Sinaloans. Macias’ friends often got into fights with Escobedo’s brother, Andy Medrano, at a Pico Rivera nightclub called El Rodeo, according to an appellate decision that summarized the evidence in Medrano’s trial.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 2008, Macias was at a festival for the Virgin of Guadalupe on Olvera Street when he got into a fight with Medrano and a friend, Michael Aleman, a witness testified. Security guards broke it up.
Macias was waiting at a red light in his Bentley when two men approached the car on foot, a witness testified. The witness, a stranded motorist waiting for a tow truck, saw muzzle flashes erupt in quick succession, as if from automatic weapons. The Bentley made a U-turn and sped toward the freeway.
Police suspected Escobedo had ordered the killing. According to a search warrant affidavit reported by The Times in 2009, detectives believed he and Macias were engaged in “a power struggle” over control of trafficking networks.
At the 2014 detention hearing in federal court, Braverman said Los Angeles detectives suspected Escobedo “ordered the homicide to occur.”
“Our understanding is that individual was a rival drug trafficker driving in that Bentley,” he said.
Detectives arrested Escobedo in 2011 and questioned him about the homicide before letting him go. Valencia, his attorney, said Escobedo was subpoenaed to testify, but was told by a prosecutor he wasn’t being called as a witness in the trial. His brother and Aleman were convicted of Macias’ murder and sentenced to life terms.
After his release from federal prison in 2018, Escobedo opened a chain of restaurants and food trucks called Benihibachi, according to a motion his lawyer submitted to terminate his probation early. The motion included a photograph of Escobedo wearing a shirt with the restaurant’s logo, chopping a tub full of onions.
His attorney, Ezekiel Cortez, urged the judge to see the good Escobedo had done after leaving prison. “As a society, you recognize that they listened. You recognize people who turned their lives around,” Cortez said at a hearing. “You recognize people who cut their ties, as in this case, with former very bad associations.”
“Mr. Escobedo proved to the whole word that he cut his ties completely,” Cortez said. “And he acquired some risks.”
Calling Escobedo “an enormous success,” U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw agreed to terminate his probation early. “Free from these influences,” Sabraw said of Escobedo’s ties to drug traffickers, “you are a very productive, wonderful human being.”
Still, Escobedo flaunted his opulent lifestyle on social media in recent years. He posed for photographs with Floyd Mayweather and Al Pacino. He wore flashy tracksuits by Dolce and Gabbana and sported a diamond-encrusted Richard Mille watch. One photograph showed Escobedo holding a duffel bag full of money. In another, he embraces a member of the Mexican Mafia while holding a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.
In a corrido, or ballad, titled “El Mago,” the group Edicion Especial sang that Escobedo had changed for the better. “A long time ago it was different,” the song goes, but today he has “los gringos” eating at his Japanese restaurants. He thinks often of his brother, “the one who is in prison.”
Investigators have not disclosed a motive for the killings. Camacho didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
De Los Angeles had been released from federal prison in December 2022, court records show. A member of the 18th Street gang called “Sad Boy,” he served 10 years for distributing methamphetamine.
After Escobedo’s death Thursday, the group Enigma Norteno put out a ballad called “El Mago Merlin.” Escobedo still hangs out in East Los Angeles and fears no one, the song goes. He baptized the child of Guzman Salazar, the kingpin’s son, and bought his “compadre” a white Lamborghini Huracan for his birthday.
“The dream,” the singer says, “has come true.”
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