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Key ‘El Chapo’ lieutenant pleads guilty, but not cooperating

One drug lord Joaqu“El Chapo” Guzman’s (pictured) henchmen pleaded guilty federal court Wednesday plotting deliver heroChicago. | Associated Press file

One of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s (pictured) henchmen pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to plotting to deliver heroin to Chicago. | Associated Press file

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Updated: April 28, 2014 10:25AM

One of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s henchmen pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to plotting to deliver heroin to Chicago.

Tomas Arevalo-Renteria, 46, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and could be jailed for life.

But prosecutors, his lawyer and U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo all went to great lengths Wednesday to stress that Arevalo-Renteria is not cooperating with prosecutors against El Chapo, who was, until his recent capture in Mexico, the world’s most wanted felon.

Authorities are still hopeful that Guzman — the Sinaloa drug cartel’s chief, dubbed Chicago’s “Public Enemy No. 1 — eventually will be brought to Chicago to face U.S. justice.

But a gaffe by ABC7 news reporter Chuck Goudie earlier this month caused the collapse of a planned guilty plea by Arevalo-Renteria’s codefendant Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez, an outcome everyone involved in the case was keen to avoid Wednesday.

Vasquez-Hernandez withdrew his plan to plead guilty after Goudie erroneously reported that he had “turned against” El Chapo. Vasquez-Hernandez’s family in Mexico went into hiding in fear of their lives after untrue rumors about his cooperation spread through the federal prison system following Goudie’s report, Vasquez-Hernandez’s lawyer, Paul Brayman, said at the time.

ABC7 removed the story from its website but Goudie declined to admit any mistake was made.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Arevalo-Renteria spoke in Spanish, confirming through an interpreter that he was pleading guilty to a single count, and that he has no cooperation deal.

Prosecutor Thomas Shakeshaft said that the only concession the government has given to Arevalo-Renteria is an agreement not to ask for a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in his case.

Arevalo-Renteria still faces 10 years to life, and federal guidelines are likely to suggest a sentence of about 30 years is appropriate.

He is due to be sentenced after Vasquez-Hernandez stands trial in May.

Increased interest in the case was sparked by the recent arrest after a decade-long manhunt of Guzman, who was indicted alongside Arevalo-Renteria and Vasquez-Hernandez in 2009, and is allegedly responsible for smuggling the majority of illegal drugs sold on Chicago’s streets.


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