Rising through the ranks of a cartel is a messy business. Members commit harsh acts against their perceived enemies, permanently silencing them and sometimes feeding the evidence to their pet lions and tigers. Pablo Escobar was infamous not only for running one of the biggest underworld empires in the world but for using his excess cash to fund Colombia's national soccer team.
But among the "most wanted" list of villains, few have come close to the diabolical deeds reportedly committed by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, alleged head of the Sinaloa cartel in Culiacán, Sinaloa. For the better part of three decades, Guzmán has helped run the international syndicate, generating billions from the underground economy. Like Escobar, El Chapo reportedly used his dirty money to help his local Culiacán community, which reveres him as a "hero."
In January 2017, Mexcian authorities extradited Guzmán to the US to await trial on charges, including trafficking, laundering, and conspiracy. Guzmán pleaded "not guilty" to the 17 counts, and his New York trial began November 13, 2018. On February 12, 2019, after a dramatic trial that included over 50 witnesses called by the prosecution, Guzmán was found guilty on 10 counts of criminal enterprise. Although capital punishment is off the table, Sinaloa's infamous kingpin faces life in US prison. His sentence hearing is scheduled for June 25, 2019.
In 2014, El Chapo reportedly told Mexican officials he had taken the lives of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. As the suspected leader of Sinaloas, US and Mexican authorities alike believe El Chapo is connected to upwards of 70,000 lives lost related to Mexico's underground economy.
In the US case against Guzmán, the US Department of Justice has cited the alleged leader as "directly responsible" for the "thousands of deaths" linked to the cartel's drug trade.
The suspected Sinaloa boss is notorious for recording and uploading videos of his and his sicarios' grisly acts to YouTube. According to US federal prosecutors: "At the defendant's explicit orders, [Guzmán's] sicarios [snatched] rivals and brought them to him, often bound and helpless, and the defendant then personally interrogated the rivals."
In 2010, El Chapo uploaded a YouTube video that showed him slaying Israel Rincon Martinez, a fierce rival who had accidentally targeted the son of an ally.
In the same year, El Chapo reportedly recorded the removal of Hugo Hernandez's face after detaching the rival's head with a chainsaw. As a warning to the Juárez cartel, El Chapo affixed Hernandez's skin to a soccer ball and left it in front of Ciudad Juárez's city hall.
On December 2, 1984, four Jehovah's Witnesses - Benjamin Mascarenas, Pat Mascarenas, Dennis Carlson, and Rose Carlson - knocked on El Chapo's door. They were Americans in Guadalajara, Jalisco, on a missionary trip. Former Jalisco State law enforcement official Jorge Godoy witnessed the incident.
According to Godoy, El Chapo physically incapacitated the men and then assaulted the women. Afterward, he fired at all four missionaries and dumped their remains in a shallow grave.
On January 30, 1985 - weeks after El Chapo took the lives of four Jehovah's Witnesses - the kingpin was also allegedly involved in ending the lives of two more Americans, Albert Radelat and John Walker. As Radelat and Walker went to dinner in Guadalajara one evening, cartel members saw the men and believed they were undercover DEA agents there to spy on him.
According to Godoy, after another bossman ordered both men into the restaurant's back storage room, El Chapo brutally ended their lives and then buried them in a nearby park.