Feds: ‘El Chapo’ associate asked street gang to beat witness

CHICAGO (AP) — A drug trafficker and close friend of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s sons offered $25,000 to members of Chicago’s Four Corner Hustlers street gang to severely beat another trafficker cooperating with prosecutors, government witnesses said Monday.

The testimony came at the sentencing hearing in Chicago federal court of Jesus Raul Beltran Leon, 35, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to smuggling thousands of pounds of cocaine, heroin, meth and other drugs into the U.S. on behalf of Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel.

Prosecutors say Leon offered the money for someone to “split” the “head” of Damaso Lopez Serrano, a fellow Sinaloa trafficker who was prepared to testify against Leon had he gone to trial.

U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo was expected to impose a sentence Tuesday after further testimony. Prosecutors are pressing for a sentence of at least 35 years, while the defense has asked for the mandatory minimum sentence, which is 10 years.

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Serrano was the first to testify Monday. He described knowing Leon in Mexico as having a penchant for marathon, drug-fueled parties and for violence, saying Leon once carried around a gold-plated AK-47.

Serrano conceded he had himself ordered the killings of more than a dozen people in the years before he turned himself in to authorities in 2017. At the hearing Monday, he said he chose to surrender because he was tired of hiding and wanted “peace of mind.”

In filings before he pleaded guilty this year, Leon claimed authorities in Mexico had tortured him during a 2014 interrogation while U.S. agents stood by. Leon said he had to chew through a plastic bag put over his head to avoid suffocating. He was extradited to Chicago in 2017.

Guzman, whose nickname, “El Chapo,” translates to “Shorty,” was sentenced in New York this year to life in a federal prison. Serrano said Leon was especially close to two of Guzman’s sons, Ivan and Alfredo, who Serrano called the “El Chapitos,” or “the Little Shorties.”

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