The leaders of a powerful Mexican cartel, frustrated that U.S. law enforcement was interfering with their lucrative drug business, plotted a military-style attack on a U.S. or Mexican government building to “send the gringos a message,” federal prosecutors allege in documents filed this week.
Leaders of the Sinaloa cartel sought dozens of American-made weapons for an attack in Mexico City on possible targets that included government buildings, an embassy or consulate or media outlet, according to documents in the case against Vicente Zambada, an alleged top lieutenant in the cartel.
Zambada is in jail in Chicago awaiting trial, one of dozens of defendants charged in the city as part of a sweeping international investigation. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to import and sell large amounts of cocaine and heroin in the United States, including Chicago.
Authorities say his father, Ismael Zambada, runs the cartel along with Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. There’s nothing in the documents to indicate the plot was carried out.
Vicente Zambada’s lawyers claim he and other cartel leaders were granted immunity by U.S. agents — and carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border — in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico. Prosecutors have denied that such an agreement exists.