LOS ANGELES — Mexico’s former defence secretary helped smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States in exchange for bribes, according to court documents unsealed Friday.
Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, 72, acted on behalf of the H-2 cartel while defence secretary from 2012 to 2018 under former President Enrique Pena Nieto, authorities said.
Thousands of intercepted Blackberry messages show the general ensured military operations were not conducted against the cartel and that operations were initiated against rivals, according to prosecutors. Cienfuegos allegedly introduced cartel leaders to other corrupt Mexican officials.
Cienfuegos is accused of alerting cartel leaders to a U.S. law enforcement investigation into its operations and the use of co-operating witnesses and informants, which resulted in the murder of a member of the cartel that leaders incorrectly believed was assisting U.S. law enforcement authorities.
Intercepted communications between Cienfuegos and a senior cartel leader discussed the general’s historical assistance to another drug trafficking organization, as well as communications in which the defendant is identified by name, title and photograph as the Mexican government official assisting the H-2 Cartel.
Cienfuegos was indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York on Aug. 14, 2019.