Identical twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores on Jan. 27 were the latest to be sentenced in a series of high-profile federal cases targeting the Sinaloa Cartel’s operations in Chicago. Accused of running a continent-spanning trafficking ring, they each received 14 years in prison after US District Judge Ruben Castillo agreed to sharply reduce their term in recognition of their work as government informants. Castillo called the Flores twins, natives of Chicago’s West Side, the “most significant drug dealers” he’d dealt with in two decades on the bench, stating that they had “devastated the walls” of US national security by bringing at least 70 tons of cocaine and heroin into the country from 2005 to 2008. Prosecutors also charged the twins smuggled $1.8 billion back into Mexico—wrapped in plastic and duct tape. But it was federal prosecutors who pleaded for leniency, hailing the twins for gathering evidence against the Sinaloa Cartel’s long-fugitive top kingpin “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was finally captured in Mexico last year.
According to coverage on AP and the Chicago Tribune, the twins met with Sinaloa operatives in a mountaintop compound in Mexico and secretly recorded phone calls with Guzmán, at a time when he was possibly the world’s most wanted man—an achievement Assistant US Attorney Michael Ferrara said “may never be duplicated.” Nonetheless, Castillo rejected prosecutors’ call for the minimum sentence, noting that the twins had allowed a 600-plus-pound shipment of heroin to be delivered into Chicago right even as they were cooperating with the government.
Chapo Guzmán is doing time at a top-security facility in Mexico, and it remains to be seen if he will ever be extradited to face the charges against him in the United States. But one of the top-level Sinaloa operatives to face charges in Chicago—Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla AKA “El Mayito”—notoriously claimed that he had been granted “carte blanche” to bring cocaine into the US under a special arrangement with the DEA. Historians may be sorting out the web of intrigue around the Sinaloa-Chicago connection for generations to come.