Billionaire drug lord wants US taxpayers to foot legal bills

Chuck Goudie Image
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
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Federal prosecutors said El Chapo should be made to prove why American taxpayers should pick up the tab for his attorneys.

Joaquin Guzman is a billionaire claiming to be El Chapo, and Monday federal prosecutors said the drug lord should be made to prove why American taxpayers should pick up the tab for his attorneys.

Rules that allow court-appointed lawyers for the poor should hardly apply to El Chapo, prosecutors said, especially since they believe he is sitting on $14 billion in drug profits.

Monday night El Chapo was in solitary confinement at the federal lockup in Manhattan, according to his attorneys, which are a pair of federal public defenders for the moment.

Prosecutors want a court hearing on whether Chapo should continue to receive government-financed lawyers, considering he is "the billionaire leader of the Sinaloa cartel," who "made billions of dollars trafficking narcotics."

Chapo extradited from Mexico this month, but in court papers filed late Monday afternoon a claim that El Chapo was hoodwinked on the day of his extradition, "transported to the United States, suddenly and without warning to his attorneys...taken from a Mexican prison and airlifted to Long Island."

El Chapo is to appear at a court hearing on Friday in Brooklyn via video link, but his attorneys said he should be brought there in person to face the judge. Authorities claim the video appearance is required for security.

Across the country, a different video appearance by federal prison inmates, who filmed a message for El Chapo pledging to protect the captured drug lord and help him escape.

Video posted on YouTube shows 5 men, their faces partially concealed with cloth, sunglasses and hats, in a prison cell vowing loyalty to the notorious drug lord.

"We are the hitmen who are going to take care of him," said one of the prisoners.

Federal bureau of prison officials tells WLS-TV that they are investigating the origin of the video, which was apparently shot in a privately-operated prison under contract with the government.

In the video, the inmates promised to help Guzman make another great escape, saying, "we want to tell the people this: if you bring him here and he asks, we are going to take him out immediately."

Federal prison officials declined to identify the location of the facility where the video pledge of allegiance to El Chapo was made, they only said it wasn't in California where some have claimed. Also not known tonight is where El Chapo would do time if he is convicted.