Indictment Looms for an Extradited World’s-Most-Wanted Head of Multi- Million-Dollar Transnational Cocaine-Trafficking Enterprise
Photo: Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum
LOS ANGELES – One of the world’s most wanted international drug traffickers has been extradited from Mexico, and arrived in the United States on Friday, September 3, 2021 for his September 7th federal-court arraignment. Initially arrested by Mexican authorities in November 2018 in Querétaro, Mexico – Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum (47) will face federal charges alleging that the international transport of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine was conspired by him.
The Mexican leader of a transnational drug trafficking organization allegedly orchestrated the cocaine- distribution network’s supply routes from Colombia to Central America, then to Mexico, and finally – the United States. A 22-count indictment with a hefty list of charges awaits the Mexican national’s afternoon in court – to accuse him of being the principal manager of a narcotics enterprise.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California noted, “During the investigation into the organization, law enforcement authorities around the world seized approximately 7,700 pounds of cocaine, with a potential U.S. street value of $500 million.”
Prosecuting this case are Assistant United States Attorneys Brittney M. Harris, J. Mark Childs, Matthew J. Rosenbaum, and Jehan M. Pernas of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.
Not only is Chavez-Gastelum charged with the two July 7, 2017 murders committed in connection with the alleged continuing criminal enterprise and related drug offenses, but a dozen other offenses spanning drug importation and trafficking, along with money laundering.
One significant single offense carries a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison: the indictment charges him with being the principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise.
The DOJ spotlighted this case’s investigation which arrested co-conspirators on three continents, including the capture and 2018 extradition to the US of Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva, the alleged organization’s Colombian leader.
“Chavez-Gastelum is the lead defendant in the indictment that charges a total of 47 defendants,” said the DOJ. “With Chavez-Gastelum’s expected court appearance, a total of 22 defendants will have been arraigned in this case.”
At this time, the case’s previously-scheduled trial is on the docket for March 15, 2022. The investigation, conducted under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, has received the substantial assistance of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division.
As a result, the success of this indictment is due to a coordinated effort of multiple law enforcement agencies – including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and IRS Criminal Investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the following reminder: An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty in court.