A former Colombian drug lord known for his extensive plastic surgeries has testified at the U.S. trial of El Chapo.
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia told the federal jury in Brooklyn on Thursday that he used drug lord Joaquin Guzman’s Mexican cartel to help smuggle tons of Colombian cocaine into large U.S. cities.
He said that Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel helped him run at least 400,000 kilos, or 440 tons, of Columbian cocaine through Mexico and into the U.S.
Ramirez Abadia estimated that while leading the Norte de Valle cartel in Columbia, he ordered at least 150 killings.
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia is seen above in 2007. The drug lord known as ‘Lollipop’ had extensive plastic surgery and testified against El Chapo on Thursday
The accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman (right) is seen in a courtrom sketch earlier this month. He pleaded not guilty claiming he is being framed by shady cooperators
Known by the moniker ‘El Chupeta’, Spanish for ‘The Lollipop’, the 55-year-old Ramirez Abadia tried to hide his identity by surgically altering his eyes, cheeks, jaw and nearly every other facial feature.
However, the law caught up to him in 2007, when he was arrested in a luxury condominium in Brazil where he had been hiding.
Witnesses said he ran his sprawling narcotic empire as a recluse from the condo, leaving only at night to ride his bicycle in the dark wearing heavy disguises.
Investigators were only able to confirm his identity using a voiceprint analysis of his taped telephone conversations.
On Wednesday, another former confidante of Guzman testified that he had survived four murder attempts ordered by the drug lord, including one that was preceded by a menacing serenade from a Mariachi band.
Juan Carlos ‘Lollipop’ Ramirez Abadia is seen left in an undated mugshot and right during his arrest in 2007. He used many disguises and had multiple plastic surgeries to avoid detection
Miguel Angel ‘El Gordo’ Martinez was extradited to the United States in 2001 and was subpoenaed to testify at Guzman’s federal trial in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
He claimed that he fought ‘tooth and nail’ against his extradition and that while he insists he never once betrayed his former friend, the paranoid Guzman ordered hits on his life.
‘I never mentioned Mr Guzman, I never failed him, I never stole from him, I never betrayed him, I took care of all his family and the only thing I got from him is four attacks against me,’ he told jurors.
Martinez worked for Guzman in the Sinaloa cartel as a drugs big-wig in Mexico City, earning at least $3 million and in the process becoming so addicted to the class A drug that his nose had to be repaired.
The bulky witness in his 60s, with a bald head and mustache, said he was testifying against his will, fearing that Guzman could order a fifth attempt on his life.
The terms of his witness protection program affording him a new identity in the U.S. require him to cooperate with the government.
Guzman is seen being extradited to the US last year. His trial is now in its third week
Martinez testified that he became a loyal servant of Guzman and helped him arrange the massive shipments of cocaine flown in from Colombia that made his boss a fortune.
The two became so close, he said, that Guzman was the godfather to his son.
Martinez told the jury that after Guzman landed in prison in 1993, he tried to look after his friend’s family and handle his legal fees. That was before his own arrest, which started a behind-bars nightmare.
He said the four attempts on his life took place in Mexican prisons between his arrest in 1998 and his arrival in the United States in 2001.
In the first jail in Mexico City where he was locked up, he was cornered in his cell by other prisoners and stabbed 15 times, he said. After he was released from the hospital, he was returned to very same cell – with the same cellmates.
He said at night ‘I actually heard them polishing their knives, their blades’.
He survived a second knife attack before he was transferred to another jail, where the interest in his shoe size made it clear there that anyone who killed him would get money from the cartel, he said. He was stabbed again while making a phone call, treated again and put in solitary confinement for his protection.
One night, Martinez said, he heard a band outside the jail playing a favorite ‘corrido’ folk song of Guzman’s – ‘Un Puno De Tierra’ – over and over, through the night.
The song was about living life to the fullest because ‘once you die, you can’t take anything with you,’ he said.
The next morning, someone armed with a pistol and a grenade appeared outside his cell, he said. The would-be assassin struggled with a guard who refused to open the cell before tossing the grenade inside. He survived the explosion, he said, by taking cover in the cell’s bathroom.
The testimony came in the third week of the trial at a New York City courthouse where Guzman has pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges that could land him in a U.S. prison for life if he is convicted.
Guzman claims he is being framed by shady cooperators.