Son of Infamous Jimmy Chagra Arrested in Texas on Drug Charges

This made-for-TV father/son story even includes Woody Harrelson.

Infamous (and now deceased) El Paso drug trafficker Jimmy Chagra’s son, 44-year-old Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, was arrested for allegedly selling cocaine, fentanyl, and LSD. Some of his clients included Fort Bliss soldiers, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials said. 

The El Paso Times reports that the special agents arrested Nichols on Friday, August 18. It’s currently estimated that five Texans die every day, on average, from a fentanyl overdose. In April of this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched a $10 million effort, the “One Pill Kills” campaign, to combat the fentanyl crisis, including sending overdose-reversing meds (Narcan) to all 254 counties. 

The news of Nichols’ arrest comes after authorities allegedly found over 21,900 dosages of LSD at his El Paso home during a multi-agency drug investigation, DPS officials said. The search warrant that led to the drug seizure and Nichols’s arrest was carried out by the Fentanyl Overdose Response Team of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in El Paso, who paired up with Texas DPS special agents. His arrest was a long time in the making, resulting from a six-month-long investigation, although due to his ancestry, it’s safe to assume that Nichols has been on the government’s list for some time. 

Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, courtesy El Paso County Sheriff’s Office

According to El Paso County Jail records, Nichols now faces four state counts of manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance. Nichols was released from jail Monday on a total surety bond of $28,000.  

Nichols’s notorious father is Jamiel Alexander “Jimmy” Chagra, who made a name for himself as El Paso’s most wanted drug trafficker of the 1970s. Las Vegas City Life once described him as “the undisputed marijuana kingpin of the Western world” (he also dealt heavily in cocaine). 

The son of a rug merchant family, Chagra originally worked as a carpet salesman before breaking into the drug smuggling trade in 1969. He trafficked drugs from both Mexico and Columbia using planes and boats (which still happens; recently, the feds seized 223 pounds of cocaine and arrested two people headed toward Long Beach from Columbia). 

Chagra was also known for his epic, high-stakes gambling, which, by all accounts, he not only loved but used to launder money earned through drug trafficking. Before his arrest, he was estimated to be worth approximately $100 million ($500 million today). Charga’s downfall can be marked to November 21, 1978, when Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kerr was shot near his home by two men who fired 19 bullets at his car. Kerr lived; his only injuries sustained were some minor glass cuts, but law enforcement was officially ready to get Chagra senior. 

In February 1979, the OG Chagra was arrested on trafficking charges. He’d appear before Judge John Wood, nicknamed “Maximum John” due to his reputation for giving out the maximum sentence on drug crimes. Chagra faced a possible life sentence. He attempted to bribe Maximum John. It didn’t work. So, he arranged to have him assassinated, eventually admitting to hiring, of all people, hitman Charles Harrelson, who, in this ongoing father-son story, is dad to actor and cannabis lover Woody Harrelson (whose new cannabis lounge, The Woods, located in West Hollywood, California, is now open for business).

LSD found during a search of Nichols’ home in El Paso, courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety

On May 29, 1979, Wood was murdered. He was shot in the back outside his home and died as a result, making him the first federal judge to die from an assassination in more than a century. Chagra went to court on his drug charges and was found guilty in August 1979 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Harrelson (senior) was also eventually caught and convicted of being the gunman, thanks to Chagra talking about the assassination when his brother, Joe Chagra, visited him in prison after the feds bugged the rooms of the Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where Chagra resided. 

Joe Chagra allegedly tried for a plea deal for his involvement and served six and a half years in prison of his ten-year sentence. He was released but died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1996. 

Jimmy Chagra’s wife, Elizabeth, also went to prison for 30 years for delivering the payout money. Charles Harrelson was slapped with two consecutive life terms plus five more years. And Chagra was acquitted of Wood’s murder but found guilty of obstructing justice and conspiring to smuggle drugs. Due to health reasons, he was released on December 9, 2003, with rumors circulating that he was placed in the Witness Protection Program. He died from cancer on July 25, 2008, in a trailer camp in Mesa, Arizona.

While the family’s story is already juicy enough for a major studio to turn it into a mini-series, as for how the current generation’s stories end, we’ll have to continue covering the Nichols case for the latest in the Chagra epic drama. 

1 comment
  1. worst story writing ever!! As a communication specialist, the author of this quilted story is confusing and makes no sense

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