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Kingpin's high-tech gadgetry helped him stay free

Drugs Kingpin Dodges U.S. Extradition

WASHINGTON (AP) - Mexico's most powerful drug cartel leader employed high-tech communications gadgetry and sophisticated counterespionage practices to elude an international manhunt for 13 years, The Associated Press has learned. In the end, however, life on the run unraveled for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in a decidedly low-tech way.

A traditional wiretap in southern Arizona pointed authorities to a cellphone being used by a top associate. Within a day, Guzman was captured in a high-rise beachfront condominium in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Guzman's penchant for technology and his efforts to stay ahead of the law were described to the AP by a senior law enforcement official with direct knowledge of Guzman's years on the run and by a U.S. government official who was briefed on the case. Both spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation by name.

"He didn't spare any expenses when it came to protecting himself," the law enforcement official said.

Some of the communications equipment Guzman used was not generally available to consumers. The sophistication of the gear and Guzman's diligence deeply impressed investigators who were pursuing him. Among other practices, Guzman employed countersurveillance scanners to detect transmitters hidden in rooms or carried by people with whom he was meeting.

"It was top-notch," the law enforcement official said.

Because Guzman was so well protected, he managed to attend family events and marry a local beauty queen in a well-attended bash in his home state of Sinaloa, all while keeping his multinational, billion-dollar drug empire thriving.

U.S. and Mexican officials spent years hunting for a weak spot in his network. The U.S. government official said the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement used traditional wiretaps to zero in on Guzman. At times in the last year, agents were able to intercept BlackBerry messages and other communications.

Earlier this month, authorities raided one of Guzman's suspected hideouts in Culiacan, the capital city of Sinaloa, where Guzman operated with near impunity. Inside, they found a cellphone belonging to his communications chief, which helped lead to a trusted courier, the government official said.

The courier later described for authorities a series of houses Guzman used as hideouts. At least one other arrest pointed Guzman's pursuers to the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan.

The most important clue came from an ICE wiretap monitored in Nogales, Ariz. That information directed Mexican marines to the exact condominium where Guzman had been hiding since outrunning troops days earlier through interconnected tunnels beneath his Culiacan hideouts.

The officials would not discuss the specific methods used over the last 13 years.

The law enforcement official said Guzman wasn't holed up in the rugged mountains of western Mexico while on the run. With the help of his own trusted security force and the likely assistance of some Mexican authorities, Guzman had moved freely about parts of Mexico and even internationally.

"He moved for the most part with impunity (in Culiacan)," the official said. "He traveled at will. He had private planes. He was a businessman and he would go and meet people to discuss not just the drug trade. He was obviously interested in the money trade, the markets. He was looking at expanding the empire."

By the time of his capture, Guzman's empire stretched from Canada through Latin America, Europe, parts of Asia and Australia. He is believed to have amassed a fortune worth billions.

U.S. and Mexican authorities were close to nabbing Guzman in the past but arrived at resorts or other locations hours or days too late, the law enforcement official said. They were never closer than in recent weeks.

Last week, Guzman's pursuers were on his heels during raids at the stash houses in Culiacan. The law enforcement official said Guzman was believed to be just ahead of Mexican troops when he vanished in the underground network below the houses before absconding to the high-rise condo in Mazatlan, along the coast.

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107 Comments
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relicsvirginia February 27 2014 at 1:38 AM

Of course, he is not going to remain in jell. How he gets out, well we don't know right now. What we do know IS he will be relished. Maybe on a 50 million dollar cash bond. Someone in high places, will live good for the rest of their lives.

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ANAS GALLERY February 27 2014 at 1:23 AM

I AM TIRED OF ALL THIS BULLSHIT,THERE WAS A TRUCE WITH EL CHAPO AND PENA NIETO YOU GO DOWN I ARREST YOU AND AT THE END OF MY TERM I FREE YOU,AND YOU CAN GO ON SELLING DRUGS AND GIVE ME A GOOD PRICE AND I CAN PROTECT YOU IN THE MEANTIME I COME LIKE A HERO TO THE GRINGOS AND OBAMA,,,WHILE I ARREST YOU IN AIR CONDITIONED CELL NEXT TO ALL YOURE FRIENDS

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bwess8 February 27 2014 at 1:03 AM

Guzman is a has been for a while . The drug pushers
are using investment banks in BERZIL set up by G .E
through Wall street . The dope will flow . And so will
the cash to the GOP.

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MISS ELVIRA !!!! February 27 2014 at 12:50 AM

In order for the Mexicans to securely hold him they must first be motivated to keep hold him.

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estimatorone February 27 2014 at 12:34 AM

Hey, the guy didn't become a drug lord for no reason. And evading
U. S. Law enforcement - this guy is not number one for evading
the government. It took over 20 years to hunt down Bin Laden.
Only the government could guess at the expense to catch this
literal "peasant" using the full technical force of the CIA, FBI,
U. S. Military, spies, latest surveillance equipment, foreign
governments, drones, etc.

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littlebuck1106 February 26 2014 at 11:17 PM

OBAMA WILL TURN HIM BK OVER TO HIS GOOD OLE FUK BUDDY IN MEXICO !!!!!THEN THEY WILL PAT HIM ON THE BACK ,,, AND SAY GOOD JOB !!111 JOB WELL DONE

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2 replies to littlebuck1106's comment
estimatorone February 27 2014 at 12:23 AM

Really - I did not know that Obama had that kind of authority,
even as the President.

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xdrumline1 February 27 2014 at 3:04 AM

Really?????

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MARCELLE NOSS February 26 2014 at 11:17 PM

I like his style. I don't like it that he has killed people. If he can stay in Mexico he will buy himself out and he will stay out forever. Not only will money get him out but the threat of being killed if not on his team will get him help also. If I was a Mexican official and was offered a million dollars to create his freedom, I would go for it in a heart beat and then disappear. Who wouldn't, honestly?

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vwworld44 February 26 2014 at 10:51 PM

MEXlCO WONT DO SHlT, TOTAL CORRUPTlON , HE WlLL LlVE LlKE A KlNG lN A MEX JAlL UNTlL HE PAYS FOR FREEDOM AGAlN-- HMB

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vwworld44 February 26 2014 at 10:47 PM

MEXl

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REWALKERandCO February 26 2014 at 10:38 PM

it's coming up mid term elections the CIA FBI DEA everyone of them alphabet soup agency is going be looking for a hand out remember WACO rubie ridge both was durning budget hearings if things went good they was justifiable in keeping their budget if things went bad they was jusifiable in wanting more money for training gear etc. same game difference players follow the money

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