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Homeland Security

Mexico's 'El Chapo' Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Charges in NYC

By VOA News January 20, 2017

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug-trafficking operation in North America and overseeing killings and kidnappings.

Through his court-appointed lawyers, Guzman entered a not-guilty plea Friday in a New York City federal court. No bail was sought.

Guzman answered questions through an interpreter standing next to him.

Guzman arrived in New York from Mexico late Thursday following his surprise extradition. He was arraigned in a 17-count indictment that carries a mandatory life prison term upon conviction of running a criminal enterprise, and additional maximum sentences of life in prison stemming from other drug charges, according to Robert Capers, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

"Today marks a milestone in our pursuit of Chapo Guzman," Capers told reporters Friday.

Prosecutors say Guzman's Sinoloa cartel operated for decades in much of North America and reaped billions of dollars by dispersing cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine throughout the United States.

Guzman is accused of money laundering and drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Miami and New York.

The convicted cartel boss has spent the past year fighting extradition. He has twice escaped from maximum-security prisons in Mexico. Guzman last escaped from Altiplano prison in 2015 after maneuvering through a kilometer-long tunnel that had been dug by his associates. He was recaptured a year ago.

U.S. prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty as a condition of the extradition of Guzman.

Guzman's attorney said his extradition was politically motivated.

Capers said the U.S. government was also seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of its prosecution.

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