Top lieutenant likely to be key witness at ‘El Chapo’ trial pleads guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy

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CHICAGO — A former top lieutenant to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and likely witness at the Mexican drug lord’s New York trial has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy in Chicago.

A plea deal unsealed Friday says 43-year-old Vicente Zambada pleaded guilty to charges in a case originally filed in Washington, D.C., in 2002. The case was transferred to Chicago in August.

Opening statements at Guzman’s trial are set for Tuesday.

Zambada would know details about the inner workings of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel few others know. He allegedly oversaw cartel logistics until his 2009 arrest.

His testimony would put him and his family in jeopardy. Prosecutors acknowledged such risks, saying they’ll recommend the government extend security to him and his family.

The agreement says Zambada will cooperate in hopes of a reduced sentence.

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