According to the Chicago Tribune, one of the highest ranking female operatives under infamous Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, just extradited from Mexico, appeared in a Chicago courtroom on Wednesday November 22, to face sweeping conspiracy charges alleging she coordinated the distribution of thousands of pounds of narcotics in Illinois and across the country.
Guadalupe Fernandez Valencia, 57, who allegedly reported directly to one of El Chapo’s sons, was arrested in February 2016 in the northwestern city of Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, where Guzman had been recaptured a month earlier.
After more than a year and a half of extradition proceedings, Valencia, whose nickname, “La Patrona,” is Spanish for “The Boss,” was flown to Chicago on Wednesday for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole.
She listened though a Spanish interpreter as a prosecutor detailed the charges and the possible penalty of life in prison. Valencia answered, “Yes, sir,” in Spanish when Cole asked if she understood the proceedings.
Valencia was added in 2015 to a sweeping indictment against the notorious Mexican cartel that has been described as the most significant drug case in Chicago’s history.
The indictment, which also names Guzman and several of his top henchmen, alleged the cartel used jumbo jets, submarines and tunnels to smuggle massive amounts of drugs into the U.S., much of which was later distributed in wholesale quantities through a network built by Chicago twins Pedro and Margarito Flores.
Valencia’s brother, Manuel Fernandez Valencia, who was charged as part of the same overall conspiracy, was sentenced in Chicago last December to 27 years in prison.
The charges allege that Guadalupe Valencia was a lieutenant for El Chapo’s son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, helping to coordinate vast shipments of drugs into the U.S. for distribution. The cartel members then laundered billions of dollars in proceeds back to Mexico, according to the charges.
To protect their lucrative drug trade, cartel members, including Valencia, used any means necessary, including bribing corrupt public officials, committing kidnappings and extortion, and threatening or committing violence against rival drug dealers as well as members of law enforcement, according to the charges.
Valencia’s extradition comes a week after prosecutors dropped charges against another defendant in the case, Jorge Mario Valenzuela Verdugo, who was found tortured and killed in Mexico.
Guzman, meanwhile, was extradited to the U.S. earlier this year after he was captured in January 2016 in a firefight between his bodyguards and Mexican marine special forces. His trial in New York on charges including drug conspiracy and murder is set for April.
Source: Chicago Tribune