CHICAGO — On Tuesday, a jury found drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman guilty on all counts, and two brothers from Chicago helped make the conviction possible.
Pedro and Margarito Flores turned on the Mexican drug kingpin on the watch of Jack Riley who once headed the Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago. Riley once had a bounty on his head placed there by the drug lord himself.
“With the exception of Osama bin Laden, I think Chapo Guzman is the No. 1 bad guy of our generation,” Riley said.
Riley was born and raised in the south suburbs but caught the attention of El Chapo more than a decade ago through his work with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
It was on Riley’s watch that federal agents arrested and flipped the twin brothers from Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
The Flores brothers were El Chapo’s biggest distributors in the Midwest. They used stash houses in the suburbs and modified vehicles to keep the pipeline of drugs flowing from Mexico to Chicago.
“In the pantheon of cases in the history of northern district of Illinois this case stands at the highest of level,” U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon said.
At trial, Pedro Flores testified he and his brother visited El Chapo in a remote area of Mexico where they saw a naked dead man chained to a tree, a reminder that those who crossed the cartel rarely lived to talk about it.
“Certainly the Flores brothers’ cooperation and providing all that info on literally tons of cocaine and billions of dollars and then getting El Chapo on a wiretap negotiation for kilos of heroin — so I think it was the most crucial evidence at trial," Riley said.
Under heavy security in 2015, a federal judge in Chicago sentenced the Flores brothers to 14 years in prison. Back then, the U.S. Attorney noted the risk their cooperation carries.
“There is never a day in their lives where they won’t have to look over their shoulders. There’s never a time when they will turn the ignition switch on a car and not wonder is it going to start? Or is going to blow up? That’s its own form of life sentence, and that’s in part because of the extraordinary nature of this case,” Fardon said at the time.
Pedro Flores testified the cartel’s warring factions in 2008, along with his wife’s pregnancy, are what caused him to reach out to the DEA and cooperate against Mexico’s most infamous drug lord.