Ovidio Guzman, one of the sons of incarcerated Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, pleaded not guilty to U.S. fentanyl trafficking charges on Monday in federal court in Chicago, prosecutors said, three days after his extradition from Mexico.
Guzman, 33, is one of El Chapo’s four sons, known as “Los Chapitos,” who inherited their father’s trafficking empire after his conviction on U.S. murder and drug charges in 2019. “El Chapo” Guzman is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison in Colorado.
U.S. officials said Ovidio Guzman’s arrest and extradition represents a significant victory in the Biden administration’s campaign to stem the deadly flow of fentanyl across the southern border.
During a brief hearing under tight security, Guzman, wearing an orange jumpsuit with his ankles shackled, listened to the proceeding through a Spanish interpreter, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Guzman was briefly arrested in Culiacan in the northern state of Sinaloa in 2019. But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ordered him released after hundreds of Sinaloa Cartel gunmen overwhelmed security forces in the city.
Two of the six counts Guzman faces carry a mandatory life sentence, prosecutors said, according to the Tribune. The U.S. agreed not to pursue the death penalty as part of its extradition negotiation with Mexico, the newspaper reported.
Guzman waived his right to a detention hearing and will be held without bail until trial, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said. His next court date is scheduled for November.
Fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, is responsive for nearly 200 American deaths a day, a toll that has strained U.S.-Mexico relations and put domestic pressure on the Biden administration to slow the spread of the deadly drug.
The Sinaloa Cartel is primarily responsible for manufacturing and exporting fentanyl across the border, according to U.S. officials.
In court papers, prosecutors said Ovidio Guzman and his brothers operated an international trafficking operation that transported drugs to the U.S. using airplanes, submarines, fishing boats and rail cars and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.
The State Department has offered rewards worth millions of dollars for information leading to the capture of the Guzman brothers.
“El Chapo” Guzman rose to prominence at the helm of the Sinaloa Cartel and added to his infamy by escaping Mexican prisons not once but twice. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2017 and convicted in federal court in Brooklyn.