Top El Chapo lieutenant Felipe Cabrera Sarabia held without bond in Chicago on street drug supply scheme charges

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's top lieutenants, Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, is being held without bond tonight after a court hearing in Chicago.

Cabrera Sarabia was arrested in Mexico nearly a decade ago and has been in Mexican custody ever since. Even though the infamous drug lord known as El Chapo is the lead defendant in this Chicago case, Chapo will never appear in a Chicago courtroom after getting a life sentence in New York. But, it's a different story for his Sinaloa cartel underlings charged in the federal case in Illinois.

Felipe Cabrera Sarabia is known in narcotics circles as "El Inge" or "The Engineer" for his alleged skill at designing drug trafficking routes. He is now in the MCC and appeared by phone late Tuesday in a virtual Chicago hearing where he was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty.

Cabrera Sarabia was arrested on drug charges in Mexico in 2011-when Mexican authorities said he had been involved mass disappearances of cartel rivals, later found in sprawling graves. When he was charged with El Chapo in Chicago in 2009, he was originally listed as Felipe LNU or "LAST NAME UNKNOWN." His actual name was added three years later in 2012.

He was said to be supplying Chicago ravenous appetite for street drugs by working with Pedro and Maragrito Flores, twin brothers from Little Village, who secretly recorded cartel conversations even with El Chapo himself.

Last Friday Cabrera Sarabia was finally extradited to Chicago.

"Mexico has historically been resistant to extradite people particularly its own citizens. There are corruption problems that are which make it even more difficult. So I think that's why we saw the delay. But now the delay is finally at end," said Gil Soffer, former federal prosecutor and ABC 7 legal analyst. He says the government sees merit in putting El Chapo associates on trial even if he will never be in Chicago.

"We might normally see the government hit pause when they've captured and successfully prosecuted the leader of an organization," Soffer said. "We're not seeing that here and I don't think we will see it here because this organization was so vast and it puts so many drugs into the streets of Chicago."

Cabrera Sarabia's attorney Ralph Meczyk tells the I-Team that he's yet to see him in person at the MCC because of COVID-19 restrictions but calls the charges against his client a "false accusation."

"We are really looking forward to litigating it and getting him back to Mexico as soon as possible. The accusations come from hardened criminals," Meczyk told the I-Team.
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