A group of California prisoners filmed a video message for Mexico’s drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, pledging to protect the captured drug lord and help him escape.
The YouTube video, which includes profanity, shows five men, whose faces were partially concealed with pieces of cloth, sunglasses and hats, standing inside a prison cell as they pledged loyalty to the notorious drug lord.
“We are the hitmen who are going to take care of him,” one of the inmates says in Spanish.
The video was shot in a privately operated prison under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, agency spokeswoman Jill Tyson said.
“Upon learning of the video, BOP oversight staff on-site at the facility began working with the contractor to investigate the allegations of irregularities at the facility,” she said.
According to the bureau’s website, a contracted correctional institution in Taft, Calif., is the only federal facility operated by a private corporation in the state. The low- to minimum-security facility in Kern County has 2,175 inmates.
The men promised to help Guzman escape, saying, “We want to tell the people this: If you bring el señor here and if el señor asks us to free him, we are going to take him out immediately.”
The video began circulating online after Guzman was extradited from Mexico to New York on Jan. 19 to face drug trafficking, murder, money laundering and other charges in six separate indictments. Guzman, who led one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, was responsible for funneling cocaine from Colombia through Mexico and into the United States.
Among the indictments, the Sinaloa cartel leader faces charges of conspiracy to import and possess cocaine for the purpose of distribution in California.
It remains unclear whether Guzman would be transferred to a federal court in California — he faces charges in multiple judicial districts — or whether he would be sentenced to a California facility if convicted.
During the nearly four-minute video, an inmate who called himself “Chuckie” and claimed to be the leader insisted the tape was not a joke. To reinforce their point, the camera panned to a darkened prison yard and then to a common area that shows prisoners sitting at tables in front of a cluster of cells, or “pod.”
The men, who spoke only Spanish, claimed they were in control of the pod and then introduced themselves one by one.
The man who introduced himself as the group’s leader then claimed that the prison’s warden, guards and other authorities have “been bought.”
“In this prison, I run things,” he said. “Here, everything is controlled.”
The group’s leader alleged that inmates have smuggled cellphones, female companions and drugs into the prison.
“Everything is ready for you,” he said. “What you say is the law. Here you have more than 3,500 soldiers. ”
He claimed other inmates have successfully escaped from the prison.
Guzman is certainly no stranger to the art of prison escape.
He broke out from a high-security Mexican prison in 2001 by hiding in a load of laundry. He remained on the run for 13 years until he was recaptured in Mexico in February 2014.
But Guzman didn’t remain in custody for long. In July 2015, he fled a maximum-security prison near Mexico City through an underground tunnel. He was captured yet again in January 2016 in Los Mochis.
In California, the Bureau of Prisons operates facilities in Atwater, Herlong, Dublin, Mendota, Los Angeles, Lompoc, San Pedro, San Diego and Victorville. High-security facilities are located in Atwater and Victorville.
For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.
3:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
This article was originally published at 2:10 p.m.