Ovidio Guzmán López, often referred to by his alias ‘El Ratón’, recently made headlines as the first son of the notorious Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán to be handed over to U.S. authorities on accusations of drug trafficking. Aged 33, he has been a significant figure within the Sinaloa Cartel since 2014, allegedly overseeing the transshipment of the lethal drug, fentanyl. As the records suggest, his involvement led him to accumulate wealth in the millions.
Although Ovidio has fervently asserted his innocence, pleading “not guilty” to the five charges brought against him in the District Court of Illinois, documents from the Southern District Court of New York reveal a different story. The indictment states:
“Guzman Lopez was one of the principal administrators, organizers and leaders of the ongoing criminal enterprise…resulted in the criminal enterprise receiving $10 million and more in gross revenue in a 12-month period of its existence from the manufacture, importation, and distribution of fentanyl.”
The financial web of ‘Los Chapitos’
The Sinaloa Cartel faction, ‘Los Chapitos’, led by the progeny of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, has been under scrutiny for some time. Earlier this year, on April 14, 2023, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced a series of charges, including fentanyl trafficking, firearms, and money laundering, against 28 individuals. Among these were Ovidio Guzmán and his half-siblings, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo.
The U.S. Justice Department’s findings highlighted the vast sums involved in this illicit trade:
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“The Cartel relies on increasingly sophisticated ways of laundering fentanyl proceeds from the United States to Mexico to enrich Los Chapitos…a single Cartel trafficker in the United States assisted in the laundering of more than $24 million in narcotics proceeds belonging to Ovidio Guzman Lopez.”
From Cold Cash to Cryptocurrency, Sinaloa Cartel’s method of laundering money
Such immense sums of money – with Ovidio reportedly earning around USD 10 million annually from drug trafficking – demand complex laundering methods to remain discreet. Translated into Mexican currency, this figure amounts to a staggering 170 million pesos each year.
To circumvent traditional financial systems and maintain secrecy, some members of the Sinaloa Cartel have turned to the digital realm. Notably, figures like Mario Alberto Jimenez Castro, known as ‘Kastor’, and Sergio Duarte Frias, have been implicated in using cryptocurrency wallets to obscure and launder thousands of dollars.
The charges Ovidio currently faces in the Illinois District Court encompass a range of serious offenses, from drug possession with intent to distribute, participation in an ongoing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, to money laundering and firearms possession. As the case unfolds, the world will be watching to see how justice is served.