Ovidio Guzmán, son of El Chapo and alleged fentanyl boss, sent to U.S.

Ovidio Guzmán, a son of former drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán who allegedly became a major trafficker in his own right — and is accused of being a protagonist in America’s deadly fentanyl boom — has been extradited to the United States to face narcotics charges, the Justice Department said Friday.

Prosecutors allege that the younger Guzmán, 33, helped lead what Attorney General Merrick Garland has called “the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world.”

Mexican army and national guard troops captured Guzmán in the Sinaloa city of Culiacán in January in gun battles that left at least 29 people dead. He has been indicted in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. on federal charges of trafficking fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs to the United States.

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Guzmán’s extradition had been a priority for the Biden administration, which has intensified pressure on Mexico’s government to curb the production of fentanyl as it has devastated American communities. U.S. officials view extradition as crucial because major traffickers have taken advantage of lax controls at Mexican prisons in the past to either escape or continue running their drug empires.

Mexican officials have said privately in recent weeks that they thought Guzmán’s extradition process would take another year, as he exhausted potential appeals.

It was not clear why the extradition was suddenly approved and executed. U.S. authorities announced it on Friday evening, as much of Mexico was celebrating the country’s Independence Day. There was no immediate comment from senior Mexican officials.

Garland on Friday praised the cooperation of U.S. and Mexican authorities and expressed gratitude for those who “have given their lives in the pursuit of justice.”

“This action is the most recent step in the Justice Department’s effort to attack every aspect of the cartel’s operations,” Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic that has devastated too many communities across the country.”

Federal prosecutors allege that the Sinaloa cartel has been a leader in fentanyl production — obtaining precursor chemicals largely from China, manufacturing the drug in Mexico, and then moving the deadly substance into the United States.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, authorities say. Between 2019 and 2021, fatal overdoses increased by 94 percent. An estimated 196 Americans die per day from fentanyl, according to the Justice Department.

Why is fentanyl so dangerous? Here is what you need to know.

Ovidio Guzmán is one of dozens of defendants indicted by grand juries in New York, Chicago and the District of Columbia in alleged drug-trafficking operations. They include three of his brothers; together, they’re known as the Chapitos.

Their father, Joaquín Guzmán, 66, was found guilty by a federal jury in New York in 2019 of drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons charges. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years and is now at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary, or Supermax, in Florence, Col.

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