Notorious drug kingpin “El Don,” real name Jonathan Huertas, 31, faced a Manhattan judge on Thursday, charged with a litany of heinous crimes. Huertas’ reign of terror came to an abrupt end after a dramatic capture in Mexico by federal agents, following more than a year on the run.
The story of “El Don” reads like a script from a blockbuster movie. Early last year, Huertas and his henchmen allegedly kidnapped two people, subjecting them to unspeakable torture in a Bronx basement apartment. The victims endured brutal treatment, including being seared with a hot iron and having melted plastic dripped on them. As if this wasn’t enough, Huertas’ gang was plotting to abduct a third victim when law enforcement stepped in.
The bust in Morris Heights led investigators to a shocking discovery: nine pounds of drugs, including lethal fentanyl and cocaine, and the arrest of three of Huertas’ associates. But the kingpin himself evaded capture, sparking a year-and-a-half-long manhunt that spanned across borders.
Huertas’ capture in Jalisco, Mexico, and subsequent extradition to New York, marks a significant victory for Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. “The illegal drugs flooding our city are not only causing record overdose deaths, but members of criminal organizations involved in the importation and distribution have been charged with crimes of cruelty and disregard for human life,” Brennan stated emphatically.
Chilling video footage shows Huertas in the act of torturing one victim, an act so savage it defies belief. Meanwhile, his gang coldly discussed plans for further kidnappings.
The raid in February 2022 led to the arrests of his accomplices, Ronny and Cesar Jimenez, and Jasmin Roman, who have since faced their sentences for their roles in the drug and kidnapping racket.
Huertas, dressed in a green jumpsuit and white sneakers, pleaded not guilty in court to kidnapping, conspiracy, assault, operating as a major trafficker, and multiple counts of drug possession. Judge Steven Statsinger ordered him held without bail, a stark turnaround for the once-elusive criminal mastermind.
Frank Tarentino of the DEA’s New York division summed up the case: “This indictment demonstrates the dark side of drug trafficking — threats of violence, kidnapping, and torture.” He emphasized the DEA’s commitment to pursuing criminals globally, a pledge that culminated in the capture of “El Don” and his return to face justice in the United States.