A top federal law enforcement agent who has spent much of his career chasing Mexican cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman predicted Thursday that the prison escapee will be recaptured through U.S. intelligence efforts infiltrating his now-fractured Sinaloa drug organization.
"Here's what I want," Jack Riley, the No. 2 official at the headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview. "I just want the guy locked up. In this country or there. I want him off the street."
FOR THE RECORD
11:08 a.m.: An earlier version of this article referred to Jack Riley as the No. 3 official at the headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He is the No. 2 official.
And, Riley said, "I'd love to see him face time in this country."
Guzman, long the head of the Sinaloa network, the most violent and feared drug cartel in Mexico, disappeared Saturday night down a tunnel from his high-security Altiplano prison cell.
Since then, Riley and other U.S. investigators said they believe that Guzman has returned to his Sinaloa mountain perch to take back his leadership of the cartel, which, according to U.S. estimates, has brought him $30 billion a year in profits from drug sales in this country alone.
Riley said Guzman vanished just as U.S. prosecutors, with indictments against Guzman in several states, including California and Illinois, "had in place the documents" to seek the cartel leader's extradition from Mexico to face federal charges in this country.
"My sense is that he's back in Sinaloa in the mountains," Riley said. "That's where he's going to feel comfortable and can control things."
But Riley said DEA officials and other U.S. authorities, who assisted Mexico in its capture of Guzman last year after an earlier prison escape, have learned that while the drug kingpin was in the Altiplano prison, his cartel has been battered by infighting and competition from rival gangs. That tension, he said, could lead U.S. agents to develop new sources and new information leading to Guzman's arrest.
"We're doing better now in targeting him and his associates," he said. "We're talking cop-to-cop, and to anybody who can lead us to him. And he made some mistakes the last time."
Riley said authorities will concentrate on sources "on both sides of the border," as well as "close members and associates" who have turned their backs on Guzman. Of particular interest, he said, is Guzman's wife, who the cartel chieftain may use to pass on his orders.
For Riley, the Guzman manhunt has become a personal mission. He ran the DEA field office in Chicago when Guzman was captured in 2014, and at that time Riley hailed the arrest as "a milestone for me." One of the Guzman indictments has been filed in Chicago.
Now he's bringing the same passion to another hunt for his old nemesis. "Knowing Chapo as well as I do, we will move quickly to find him," he said.