Ovidio Guzmán López, the son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other charges during his first court appearance in Chicago. Guzmán López was extradited from Mexico to the United States on Friday, following the unsealing of indictments against him and his brothers, collectively known as the “Chapitos,” five months ago. The indictments allege that the brothers, after their father’s extradition and life sentence in the U.S. in 2019, shifted the cartel’s focus towards synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl.
During the arraignment, Guzmán López, also known as “the Mouse,” stood before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in an orange jumpsuit and pleaded not guilty through a translator. The 33-year-old, described as short and slight, answered questions softly and politely. His arrest in January in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, resulted in violent clashes that left 30 people dead, including 10 military personnel.
The U.S. indictments, unsealed in April, accused the brothers of aiming to produce large quantities of fentanyl and sell it at low prices. In a letter, the brothers denied the allegations, claiming to be victims of persecution and scapegoating. Guzmán López, who admitted to being on medication for depression, anxiety, and a stomach ailment, faces charges that carry maximum life sentences, including conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to distribute them. Money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
U.S. Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall praised the extradition as a testament to the ongoing cooperation between the American and Mexican governments in countering narcotics and other challenges. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador has acknowledged his country’s role as a transit point for fentanyl precursors from China to the U.S., despite differing assertions by the U.S. government and the Mexican military regarding fentanyl production in Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman scheduled Guzmán López’s next court appearance for November 17.