A witness testifying against alleged drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán told prosecutors that Guzmán drugged and raped underage trafficking victims as young as 13, referring to the youngest girls as his “vitamins” because he believed that having sex with them gave him “life,” according to previously sealed court filings that were made public Saturday.
Alex Cifuentes, a Colombian drug trafficker who said he who worked closely with El Chapo for years, including an 18-month stretch living with Guzmán, told investigators that Guzmán regularly arranged for liaisons with young girls where both men allegedly raped them, according to the filing, which was originally filed under seal in October.
According to Cifuentes, a woman known as “Commadre María,” [sic] who ran a modeling agency in Mexico City and had connections to both the cartel and to high-ranking Mexican military officials, would send Guzmán photos of the girls, some as young as 13. Then, for a payment of $5,000, El Chapo would have the girls flown out to one of his ranches, Cifuentes said.
Cifuentes, referred to in the documents as “CW1,” told investigators that he would sometimes help Guzmán drug the girls by placing a “powdery substance” in their drinks, at his boss’s orders. Cifuentes said that on three or four occasions he also raped girls as young as 15, but insisted he never drugged them.
But jurors, who are set to begin deliberating on Monday, never heard the allegations. That’s because the government successfully lobbied Judge Brian M. Cogan to bar any testimony or cross-examination on the subject on the basis that, due to the fact that the allegations were “irrelevant” to the criminal case against El Chapo, and because Cifuentes admitted to participating, the information could cause jurors to make prejudicial decisions about both Guzmán and Cifuentes that could affect their ultimate verdict.
“Salacious testimony about a witness’s sexual activity with minors is likely to be highly inflammatory, and it would invite the jury to improperly discount CW1’s testimony by ‘suggest[ing] decision on an improper bias, commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one,’” prosecutors wrote in the motion asking Cogan to suppress the information.
Angel Eduardo Balarezo, a defense attorney for El Chapo, denied the allegations against his client, noting that they had not been corroborated.
According to prosecutors, other cooperating witnesses corroborated the allegations from Cifuentes, but did not specify which witnesses had done so.
Also included in the topics precluded from discussion at trial were details of a meeting that El Chapo had with a DEA agent in 1998, when he was incarcerated at Puente Grande, the maximum-security prison from which he would escape in 2001.
According to prosecutors, Guzmán requested an interview with the agent and offered to provide information about rival drug traffickers, namely the cartel run by the Arellano-Felix brothers, with whom El Chapo and his partner Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada were engaged in a protracted turf war. Guzmán was hoping to trade the information in exchange for a promise that he would not be extradited to the United States, prosecutors wrote. Like many drug lords before him who had successfully bribed officials to make even a stay in prison somewhat comfortable, extradition was long one of El Chapo’s greatest fears, and he appeared willing to go to great lengths to avoid it: according to testimony at trial, the catalyst for his decision to sneak out of Puente Grande in a laundry cart in 2001 was that Guzmán had learned that extradition could be imminent.
The unsealed documents, 75 pages in all, go on to detail the “unorthodox interests” of Cifuentes, including an obsession with astrology, witch doctors and UFOs. According to prosecutors, Cifuentes has “personally availed himself of the services of witch doctors on several occasions,” and told investigators that he had seen Guzmán himself consulting with a witch doctor from whom he had bought snake oil.
Cifuentes, who was captured on a wiretap chatting with a pal about his interest in the Illuminati and the occult, as well as his belief at the time in an impending apocalypse in 2012, learned about the subjects from watching internet videos and shows on the Discovery Channel, prosecutors said.
In addition to details on Cifuente, prosecutors also managed to bar discussion of a number of crimes committed by their cooperating witnesses, including domestic violence, drunk driving that resulted in the death of a child, bribery and, in perhaps the most pathetic instance, failure by one witness to pay child support.
The documents, which detail numerous incidents of domestic violence, drug use and bribery by Cifuentes and other cooperating witnesses, were unsealed on Cogan’s order following a motion by lawyers with the New York Times and Vice News.