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Former DEA agent on how he caught the notorious drugs baron

Former DEA agent on how he caught the notorious drugs baron

Former DEA agent Andrew Hogan tells Rob Hastings how he risked his life capturing El Chapo, the infamous billionaire medicine trafficker about to go on trial

Aiming his handgun into the darkness, Andrew Hogan was apprehensive. For almost two years the US agent had been main the operation to seize the world’s most needed fugitive, Joaquin Guzman, the medicine baron recognized the world over as El Chapo. Now it seemed like Hogan and his group may lastly get their man, however Guzman was the grasp of last-minute escapes.

The Mexican billionaire bandit – accused of torturing and murdering numerous enemies, and duty for half of all of the narcotics smuggled into the US – was notorious for his Sinaloa cartel’s tunnels, dug both to move medicine beneath the border into America or to evade seize. His nickname is Spanish for Shorty, and El Chapo’s 5ft 6in stature got here in useful when slipping underground.

Guzman had accomplished simply that to get away from Hogan and his staff solely days earlier, scarpering down a gap that led to a sewer. As an alternative of coming away from that raid together with his goal in handcuffs, all Hogan left with was El Chapo’s black baseball cap.

Andrew Hogan and his associate Brady sitting in El Chapo’s driveway, taking a fast relaxation earlier than their subsequent raid
(Photograph: Andrew Hogan/HarperCollins)

How the raid unfolded

It was now 5:30 within the morning, 22 February 2014. Sporting that very same black cap as a trophy, in addition to camouflage gear and a ski masks, Hogan – an agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration – had arrived outdoors the Miramar lodge within the Pacific coastal resort of Mazatlan along with a squad of elite Mexican marines, led there by cell phone surveillance.

“As quickly as we pinged the telephone and had it at Miramar, we have been primarily 100 per cent sure that he was there,” Hogan tells i, recalling the pre-dawn operation. “I used to be involved about our perimeter, about him escaping once more. He was in that specific lodge for a cause – he might have had a tunnel or an escape route.

“The marines flooded the lodge whereas I used to be standing outdoors, wanting up on the home windows, ready to see the lights come on. It felt like an eternity had passed by, and I stated: “If he’s escaping, he’s doing it proper now, at this very second.” I used to be going to run across the block to ensure we have been coated, once I heard the excited radio chatter that stated they’ve received the goal, they want a car down beneath within the parking storage.

“I drove down there. It was darkish however I might see a shirtless man they have been simply standing up, and I obtained out of my car and ran proper as much as him and jumped into his face and stated: ‘What’s up, Chapo?!’

Andrew Hogan (left) and his associate Brady, posing with El Chapo throughout interrogating after his seize (Photograph: Andrew Hogan/HarperCollins)

A relentless hunt

Since revealing his id to inform the within account of the mission in his new e-book, Searching El Chapo, Hogan has informed this story a number of occasions, however he nonetheless smiles at that frat boy-ish victory phrase. It appears arduous to think about him saying it now. With chiselled options and the cool manner of an motion hero able to spring into assault or defence mode at any second, the 37-year-old is wearing a sensible blazer for our interview over tea in a London lodge.

However Hogan says he isn’t embarrassed by his celebration of finishing a probably lethal operation (Guzman had an AK-47 assault rifle subsequent to his mattress that night time when he was awoken by the marines, which he didn’t hearth).

“That was primarily the build-up of my complete profession,” he says. “I hadn’t considered what I used to be going to say to him, I didn’t even know I used to be going to return nose to nose with him. That’s simply the very first thing that got here out, I actually don’t know why.”

Andrew Hogan – sporting El Chapo’s black baseball cap – and his associate Brady, moments after the seize of El Chapo on the Lodge Miramar (Photograph: Andrew Hogan/HarperCollins)

Hogan had been working “relentlessly” to catch El Chapo since 2009, at one level even going undercover together with his associate to ship $1.2m to Guzman’s males by way of a personal jet. Regardless of insisting he by no means turned “infatuated” or “emotionally hooked up” to his goal, the best way he sums up El Chapo underlines a private obsession in his hunt.

“He was the felony that no jail might maintain. He had evaded seize for over a decade, evading Mexican and US regulation enforcement, all the time escaping out the again door, getting advance discover of each operation, each raid towards him. He climbed to this type of legendary determine, virtually legendary determine, the place individuals sing songs about him, and other people assume he’s untouchable.”

Andrew Hogan boarding the DEA Learjet en path to Mexico Metropolis in June 2010, carrying the $1.2m in money inside FedEx bins (Photograph: Andrew Hogan/HarperCollins)

Dangerous enterprise

Guzman is because of go on trial on 13 Novcmber. A 90-page memo filed to the courts in April outlines a number of the proof towards him – together with claims that he used sicarios, or hit males, to kidnap rivals to be interrogated “sure and helpless” by El Chapo himself.

In response to CNN, the doc particulars one case involving two suspected gangsters from the Zetas cartel. “After having lunch, the defendant interrogated them, had them crushed after which shot them each within the head with an extended gun,” it alleges. “In no less than one occasion, the defendant himself shot the rivals at point-blank vary.”

Chasing Guzman was as harmful because it will get, and never simply due to the warring gangs. Hogan describes in his guide how, not lengthy into his posting in Mexico Metropolis, two CIA brokers had their armoured diplomatic automotive sprayed with greater than 100 machine gun bullets – by corrupt police.

Thirty-second briefing: El Chapo

Joaquin Guzman was named Public Enemy Quantity One by the Chicago Crime Fee in 2013, the primary outlaw to be provided that title since Al Capone.

The medicine kingpin has employed a legendary lawyer for his trial: Jeffrey Lichtman, well-known for his profitable defence of the mafia boss John Gotti Jr by means of 4 trials in 5 years.

US prosecutors declare El Chapo has $14bn belongings which they intend to grab, although thus far they’ve struggled to seek out any.

Joaquin Guzman, aka “El Chapo”, is escorted by marines as he’s introduced to the press on 22 February 2014 in Mexico Metropolis, following his seize (Photograph: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Pictures)

Household considerations

Hogan and his household might have turn into targets themselves. He admits he needed to talk about the state of affairs “many occasions” together with his spouse, as she needed to care for his or her younger sons whereas he was out chasing cruel gangsters, however he says: “She was a rock. She was standing subsequent to me, making these uncomfortable life-changing selections, each step of the best way.”

Hogan writes how she too needed to discover ways to assess dangers: “Look everybody on the sidewalk within the eyes shortly to guage them, and determine: menace or not?”

As for his most fearful expertise, the previous agent says: “In all probability the scariest was being in Culiacan, in Chapo’s stronghold, with no gun – caught in the midst of the lion’s den, not understanding what’s round each nook, and figuring out that we could possibly be in a gunfight round each nook. It was all about survival.”

Andrew Hogan with 2,513kg of seized cocaine in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in November 2010 (Photograph: Andrew Hogan/HarperCollins)

Popping out of the shadows

Revealing his id is dangerous even now, however Hogan – who will solely say of his life now that he lives within the American Midwest, working as a personal safety advisor – is proud to lastly be telling his story.

“I’d all the time been within the shadows and actually downplayed the story when individuals requested me about it. It was time to step up and be proud.” He says he has no regrets, however admits the hunt modified his life perpetually. “It’s exhausting for me to get enthusiastic about issues any extra, after carrying out one thing like that.”

Hogan has been in negotiations for his e-book to be made into a movie by Sony Footage, although he struggles to observe dramas concerning the warfare on medicine – he solely managed to take a seat by means of two episodes of Narcos.

The ladder connecting the tunnel by way of which Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from the Altiplano jail (Photograph: Getty)

A grasp of escapes

Whereas awaiting trial, El Chapo has been held in a most safety unit at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Centre, a jail in downtown Manhattan referred to as “Little Gitmo”. The US authorities are taking no dangers after his unimaginable escape from Altiplano Federal Penitentiary in Mexico 2015.

Hogan, who had retired from the DEA after his profitable mission, remembers listening to the information. “I used to be in Europe on the time, heading to an airport behind a taxicab when my spouse texted me and stated C had escaped, he was out. ‘C’ was our codename for him. My preliminary response was: ‘Let’s mount back-up, deliver the band again collectively and go get him.” However we clearly couldn’t do this, we’d moved on.”

“It felt virtually just like the world was conspiring towards me,” he provides, saying he wasn’t stunned by the information due to the extent of corruption in Mexico.

Photographs of drug lord Joaquin Guzman, aka “El Chapo”, shaking arms with US actor Sean Penn made headlines around the globe (Photograph: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Photographs)

Guzman added to his notoriety by inviting the Mexican TV star Kate del Castillo to his lair whereas nonetheless on the run – and granting a controversial interview to the Hollywood actor Sean Penn. The article was revealed in Rolling Stone journal three months later, the day after El Chapo was recaptured.

Requested if he noticed Penn’s actions as a betrayal, Hogan shakes his head, however says the actors positioned themselves in mortal hazard. “They need to have recognized that they have been going to be beneath surveillance, they’re fortunate that they [the authorities] didn’t launch an operation whereas they have been there as a result of they very nicely might have.”

The actress Kate del Castillo seen in her Netflix documentary ‘The Day I met El Chapo’ (Photograph: Netflix)

The violence goes on

Even with out Guzman on the streets, Mexico stays a battleground. Round 200,000 individuals within the nation have died because of drugs-related violence prior to now decade, together with 29,168 final yr alone – the worst on document. In Cancun, a well-liked vacationer vacation spot, 14 individuals have been murdered within the area of 36 hours in April.

A Reuters investigation the identical month discovered that at the least 82 politicians and candidates had been killed after election campaigning started in September final yr. The president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-wing populist who claimed victory in July and can assume workplace in December, has proposed an amnesty for individuals within the medicine enterprise, saying: “You’ll be able to’t confront violence with violence. You’ll be able to’t put out hearth with hearth.”

However, Hogan maintains that capturing Guzman did assist – and says the “warfare on medicine” should proceed.

“The argument is: OK, you’re taking out Chapo and even his cartel, however then a brand new one strikes in. Nicely, in fact a brand new one strikes in each time, however you must apply the identical strain and technique and assets to grow to be profitable in concentrating on different cartels.

“Take a look at Medellin in Colombia, for instance. Beneath the reign of Pablo Escobar within the 1990s, might you stroll into Medellin on trip? No. Are you able to now? Completely. Colombia has turn into a vacationer vacation spot. Why is that? As a result of the Colombian authorities has embraced the co-operation of the US and constructed up its drug enforcement programme, the place they’ve successes day in and day trip, they usually have improved the standard of life for his or her residents. I feel the identical factor could be utilized to Mexico.”

He provides: “You’re by no means going to cease the circulate of medicine, identical to you’re by no means going to cease the murders and the killings on the planet – there’ll all the time be criminals, there’ll all the time be these in pursuit of criminals, however no one’s resistant to justice; their day will all the time come.”

‘Searching El Chapo: Taking down the world’s most needed drug lord’ by Andrew Hogan and Douglas Century (£14.99, HarperCollins) is out now. This text was initially revealed in Might 2018.