US Authorities Trailed 'El Chapo' for Days Before His Arrest
(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. authorities had at least five wiretaps on targets inside the U.S. connected to the arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The Drug Enforcement Administration had four wiretaps and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations had one based in Nogales, Ariz., a law enforcement source familiar with the case told ABC News. Below is a timeline of events leading up to the arrest:
Feb. 16: A task force of DEA, Homeland Security Investigations and Marshals was able to locate the cell phone of Guzman's communications chief, Carlos Ho-Ramirez, dubbed "Condor." The task force "exploited" the cell phone for more associates and identified a stash house. They gave the information to Mexican authorities.
Feb. 17, 2 a.m.: Mexican authorities raided the location and arrested Mario Hidalgo Arguello, nicknamed "Nariz" -- described as Guzman's "errand boy" and courier. This arrest was "huge" because he "flipped immediately" and gave up five more stash houses/hideouts around Culiacan, Mexico, the source said. He told authorities that the stash houses all had steel doors equipped with secret tunnels under the bathroom tubs that led to sewage system. One of these stash houses also acted as Guzman's main residence. At 4 a.m. -- only two hours later -- Mexican authorities raided the main residence, but the steel doors were harder to penetrate than they thought. As a result, Guzman got away through the escape route under the bathtub, the source said.
Feb. 18: Authorities located and interviewed a man in Culiacan who worked security for Guzman. The man told authorities -- including the U.S. task force -- that he had picked up Guzman and an unknown woman from a drainage ditch, and that they were headed to a hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico, the source said. At this point, Guzman and his cohorts realized that their phones were not secure, so they dropped them -- and the DEA wiretaps became useless. But the HSI wiretap out of Nogales was still proving fruitful, the source added.
Feb. 20, 3 a.m.: Mexican authorities arrested another man who worked security for Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as "El Mayo," who is considered one of Guzman's strategists. He started to talk to Mexican authorities and identified some possible locations where Guzman could be hiding, the source said. Authorities also went through his cell phone.
Feb. 21: HSI, which still had its wire up and active, was able to identify a new device/cell phone that "Condor" was using. U.S. Marshals in Mexico were able to use their equipment to track the phone to the hotel in Mazatlan. Hours later, authorities raided the room where Guzman was hiding, the source said. He grabbed a rifle, a brief stand-off ensued, but ultimately no shots were fired and he was taken into custody. His wife Emma and "Condor" were also arrested.
Asked what this arrest really means for the cartel and its operations, the law enforcement source said it's too soon to tell. However, the source noted, now authorities have in custody the absolute best intelligence source on the Sinaloa cartel -- the man who ran it.
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