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Sinaloa cartel boss who worked with "El Chapo" extradited from Mexico to U.S.

A high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel who is alleged to have worked closely with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was extradited to the United States to face international drug trafficking and firearms charges, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Prosecutors charged 42-year-old Jorge Ivan Gastelum Avila, also known as "Cholo Ivan," with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine as well as over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana "intending and knowing that those substances would be imported into the United States."

Gastelum Avila was also charged with knowingly and intentionally using, carrying, brandishing, and discharging a firearm, including a destructive device, during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, prosecutors said. 

Gastelum Avila was arrested in January 2016 alongside his boss, infamous drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera, widely known as El Chapo, in Sinaloa, Mexico, as they attempted to flee authorities, prosecutors said. At the time of his arrest, Gastelum Avila was working closely with El Chapo as a lead sicario, or assassin, for the Sinaloa Cartel, court documents allege.

The documents claim that between Aug. 2009 and Jan. 2016, Gastelum Avila served as a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by El Chapo and Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as "El Mayo." 

Gastelum Avila worked as the "plaza boss" for the city of Guamúchil, where he supervised at least 200 armed men and was in charge of the drug-trafficking activities within the city and the surrounding area, prosecutors said. 

Since his arrest, Gastelum Avila had remained in Mexican custody until he was extradited to the U.S. on April 1. 

Mexico Drug Lord
Ivan Gastelum aka "El Cholo Ivan" is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican Navy marines at a federal hanger in Mexico City, Mexico, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Eduardo Verdugo / AP

Guzman was extradited to the U.S in Jan. 2017 and two years later was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons charges.  

Gastelum Avila now faces up to life in prison for the drug conspiracy charge and a mandatory consecutive sentence of 30 years for the firearms offense, prosecutors said. 

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration has credited the Sinaloa Cartel as one of two Mexican cartels behind the influx of fentanyl in the U.S. that's killing tens of thousands of Americans.

"What we see happening at DEA is essentially that there are two cartels in Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, that are killing Americans with fentanyl at catastrophic and record rates like we have never seen before," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told "CBS Mornings" in 2022.

"Those cartels are acting with calculated, deliberate treachery to get fentanyl to the United States and to get people to buy it through fake pills, by hiding it in other drugs, any means that they can take in order to drive addiction and to make money," she added. 

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