El Mayo and son: New indictment brings father and son narco tale back to the forefront

CHICAGO (WLS) — A new superseding indictment filed this week against one of the powerhouse players in the illicit drug trade in Chicago brings the story of a father and son’s differing paths to the forefront.

The fifth superseding indictment was filed against Ismael Zambada Garcia or “El Mayo”, 76, is the current top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel that controls a majority of the illicit drugs sold in Chicago.

El Mayo’s son took a differing path.

Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, known as “El Vicentillo,” turned on the cartel and is now in witness protection, the ABC 7 I-Team has learned.

The new indictment is underscored by what El Mayo’s son Vicente told authorities over the years from a Chicago jail cell, after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges in November 2018, and was sentenced the next year to 15 years in prison.

The kingpin El Chapo remains at the center of this narco tale.

Chapo is locked up for life at the Supermax prison in Colorado, while his cartel co-founder, El Mayo, has assumed the Sinaloa throne and acts as overlord of the cartel that has dominated drug sales in Chicago, controlling 80 percent of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl sales, federal authorities contend.

El Mayo has been under indictment in Chicago for fifteen years; A career fugitive with a $15 million U.S. bounty on his head, now facing the new indictment out of New York.

“We haven’t really had a photo of this guy probably for 25 years,” Jack Riley told the I-Team.

Riley is a legendary former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration outpost in Chicago, literally writing the book on El Chapo titled “Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of America’s Opioid Crisis.”

Riley said with the declining state of U.S.-Mexico relations, capturing El Mayo is a long shot because he is protected and likely hiding out in the open.

“If I was a betting man, I’d bet on him getting away,” Riley explained. “I think he’s insulated enough. I think his health is not good, and he’s had the ability and the routine of staying one step ahead.”

El Mayo’s son “El Vicentillo” is thought to be in U.S. witness protection.

On the day Vicente was sentenced in 2019, the courthouse in Chicago was crawling with heavily armed guards.

Law enforcement sources tell the I-Team Vicente was recently released from the MCC in Chicago and a few weeks ago, the Mexican newspaper Zeta Libre Como El Viento published a purported photo of the druglord’s at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, in Arlington County, Virginia, allegedly escorted by authorities while being transferred to federal witness protection.

“If I was him, I’d have gone into the witness protection,” Riley explained. “At least initially, until he gets a feeling of what’s going on down south.”

Riley continued, “His father [El Mayo] certainly has influence, but there are a lot of, I think, alliances that have broken down since El Chapo was arrested.”

“[Vicente’s] cooperation led to additional indictments, so he’s got a lot of enemies,” Riley told the I-Team. “It doesn’t matter who his father is.”

Riley is pushing for the Sinaloa cartel to be designated by the United States as a terrorist organization; not just a drug trafficking group.

Considering the thousands of lives they take in Cook County and elsewhere. Riley said a terror group designation would free up additional funds-and allow for more aggressive tactics against cartel leaders here, at the border and in Mexico.

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