“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Opening arguments begin next week for Luna in a Brooklyn, NY federal courtroom.

Opening arguments are set to begin next week in the highly followed trial of former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna. Following final juror selections, Judge Brian Cogan, who also presided over the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in the same courtroom, delivered a blow to the prosecution, restricting certain avenues of evidence regarding his vast wealth and allowing his defense to bring up proof of his past support and meetings with high-level US officials including a who is who of the last 20 years of leadership in the United States government and law enforcement agencies.

Several witnesses were also listed, along with some direction regarding possible credibility and what the two sides can bring up to either enforce or question their competency and validity in testifying against Luna.

García Luna’s defense said in court that the prosecution has indicated they intend to call 70 witnesses during the trial and that it could last well into March depending on the pace of the proceedings. A large number of those witnesses will not all be cooperating narcos or corrupt officials that might have worked with Luna. Likely many will be law enforcement agents and analysts to help provide evidence on the financial network of companies and associations of Luna as well as insight into the drug trafficking landscape in Mexico that Luna was supposed to be in charge of eradicating.

According to documents filed in court yesterday, these are several of the former cooperating narcos and officials that are set to testify or could testify in court against Luna.
The brother of “El Mayo” has testified against Chapo and was recently threatened by Luna according to prison documents.

Jesus Reynaldo Zambada Garcia “El Rey” 

It is little surprise that “El Rey”, brother of “El Mayo” Zambada would testify. He also did so in the trial against “El Chapo” in 2019. That trial took place in the same courtroom and was overseen by Judge Brian Cogan as well. Luna last year was allegedly recorded threatening and looking to have Zambada and other witnesses killed. The brother of “El Mayo” previously testified during El Chapo’s trial that he once handed García Luna a briefcase with more than $3 million cash. He also assured that he gave $8 million in bribes to García Luna in exchange for protection for the Sinaloa Cartel.

El Rey testified that in the 1990s he imported cocaine to Mexico City through the resort city of Cancún. He said he paid off the Mexican Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Highway Police to guard the shipments as they were transported over land, usually hidden inside gas tankers owned by his brother. El Chapo and other cartel leaders would work together to smuggle the drugs, he said. 

Jesús Reynaldo Zambada García was arrested on October 20, 2008, in the middle of a war against the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. In April 2012 when he was extradited to the US. Two years after his testimony against Chapo, on May 12, 2021, the US Treasury Department made public the removal of “El Rey” Zambada from its sanctions blacklists. He was no longer in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons; much like another potential witness against Luna, “La Barbie.”

“El Grande” was arrested in Mexico in 2010, during Luna’s term as Mexico’s top cop. He was extradited to the US in 2012.

Sergio Villarreal Barragán “El Grande”

Sergio Villarreal Barragán aka El Grande, a former high-ranking member of the Beltrán Leyva Organization. He started as a judicial police officer in Coahuila and then began working with several different cartels.

First, around 1996, with the Juarez Cartel under Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “The Lord of the Skies.” Then, with the Gulf Cartel and “Los Zetas”, when they were still allies led by Osiel Cárdenas Guillén and Heriberto Lazcano, “El Lazca or Z3”.

Then he linked up with the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by “El Chapo.” Finally, he allied himself with the Beltrán Leyva when they broke off from Chapo and Mayo. A protected PGR witness pointed out “El Grande” as having links with politicians, mainly with the PAN. The witness even said that through Anaya Llamas, “El Grande” met Felipe Calderón when he was president-elect. The meeting took place at the christening of the daughter of Anaya Llamas, where both were present. Calderón and Anaya have denied the accusations.

In 2019, he was freed after serving nearly 10 years in custody and is said to be a protected witness. He had given up several military officials allied with the BLO in Mexico who were arrested.

Édgar Veytia, a former Mexican State Attorney General collaborated for at least four years with the H-2 cartel linked to the Beltrán Leyvas.

Edgar Veytia “El Diablo”

Edgar Veytia served as State Attorney General for the Pacific coast state of Nayarit between 2013 and 2017. Veytia initially took bribes to favor a faction of the Beltran Leyva Cartel (BLO) from 2013 to 2017.

Then, Veyetia switched sides in 2017, to ally with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). The state attorney general’s office formed “an execution group” that worked for the cartels, and according to a National Search Commission report from Mexico, “the attorney general’s criminal structure may possibly still be operating, now for another criminal organization.”

The report says parts of the state government essentially acted like a gang, with officials from police officers to judges cooperating to kill, threaten, torture, or jail rival gang members. In 2019, Veytia was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a US drug-trafficking case accusing him of using wiretaps and other law enforcement tools to protect the territory of the drug cartel.

Veytia pleaded guilty and told the judge in the same federal court in Brooklyn where Luna stands trial, that he made a “mistake” by taking bribes from the cartels while he was the state’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer. He is a dual US-Mexico citizen who had a residence in San Diego, California as well.

He “used his official position to protect drug trafficking activities.” But Veytia is potentially problematic as a witness. Prosecutors had sought to prevent the defense “from asking Veytia about adverse credibility findings by various arms of the federal government and the related decision not to offer him a cooperation agreement,” indicating the Department of Justice had found him to be unreliable. Cogan ordered the government to “produce all materials in its possession concerning Veytia’s credibility.”

Alex-Cifuentes Villa was a right-hand man of El Chapo, his testimony and background have been questioned since his cooperation with US authorities against El Chapo.

Alex-Cifuentes Villa

Alex Cifuentes-Villa was a Colombian cocaine trafficker who was once close to El Chapo. He helped prosecutors convict Chapo in 2019 by testifying against him. He faced an aggressive cross-examination by El Chapo’s lawyers, who highlighted inconsistencies in his statements to U.S. investigators. More troubling was what jurors were not allowed to hear: That Cifuentes-Villa allegedly helped procure child prostitutes that El Chapo allegedly drugged and raped. Cogan precluded jurors from hearing that evidence, deeming it too prejudicial and unreliable.

During Chapo’s trial, Villa made some sensational allegations, such as that Mexico’s former president Enrique Peña Nieto asked for a $250 million bribe and accepted a counteroffer of $100 million, delivered by a person named “Comadre Maria.” (A spokesman for Peña Nieto called the allegation “false, defamatory, and absurd.”)

But the jurors may have viewed his claims differently if they’d known he was interested “in the Illuminati, Freemasonry, other planets, other galaxies, UFOs and the idea that there was an impending apocalypse in 2012.” In one exchange, Cifuentes admitted to lying to nearly everyone in his life, from business associates to family members. Defense lawyers then asked about Chapo: “Is he the only person you didn’t lie about?”

Miguel Arriola Marquez

Marquez is another major Mexican trafficker sentenced in 2010 to 20 years in prison after federal prosecutors in Colorado linked him to smuggling several thousand kilos of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars. His family is tied to the Juarez Cartel and his brother Oscar was extradited to the US on the same charges. Miguel pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010.

So far, the most talked about potential witness, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez-Villarreal has not been listed. The prosecution does not have to disclose the names of their witnesses until 24 hours prior to their testimony for their safety so likely we will not find out until he is called to testify. “La Barbie” is however not listed as being in BOP Prison Custody any longer, the change is likely due to his cooperation and move into protected custody in anticipation of this trial.

Motions Granted or Denied

The second motion that Judge Cogan approved was the motion from the defense to allow them to provide photos from meetings, communications, letters, and call character witnesses that could include several high-level US government and former government officials. The prosecution team had sought to prevent these from being introduced as it could confuse or insinuate claims from the meetings and support shown to Luna by former FBI Director Robert Mueller and then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Both provided support letters when Luna applied for his US visa to live in Miami, FL. Also included on the list include former US President Obama, the late Senator John McCain, and former CIA directors.
The list of US officials that Luna wants to show evidence of meeting with stems from his official duties against the war on drugs and cooperation with the US.
“The photographs will allow the defendant to argue that his work fighting Mexican drug cartels makes it less likely that he joined a conspiracy with a drug cartel. However, given their low probative value, the defendant will only be able to admit five of these photographs of his choice,” the document states, which also states that these images can be shown during the opening and closing of the trial, since “it is customary that the defendant presents evidence relating to his background.

However, Cogan ruled that the defense will not be allowed to tell the jury about how these US officials had publicly praised García Luna over the years. This includes the letters of support that Clinton and Mueller wrote during his US Visa application. In order to present this, the defense would have to call these officials to testify as character witnesses. This is highly unlikely to happen as Luna is on trial and the US officials would not want to show support for him now. And due to them being cross-examined by prosecutors, could potentially be more damaging than good for Luna.

Also approved was their motion to preclude the prosecution from bringing up the vast wealth that Luna held prior to his arrest, stating this came after his time as a government official in Mexico and of the timeframe that several of the crimes he stands accused of took place. 

Mexican President AMLO responded during his recent morning press conference to the wealth attained by Luna in the 6 short years following his leave from the Mexican government. “I would ask myself, out of common sense, how anyone, even a businessman, can get so much money in no time. In other words, it ended in 2012, it’s been there for six years, and from 2018 to…When did they stop it? No, from 2012 to 18, six years, he gets great wealth. How do you get so much money in six years? We are talking about houses in the United States, about yachts. I eat? Why so much success?” said the President, adding that if US authorities were involved in the bribes, “they should be called to testify” before the courts.

In Miami, following his retirement in 2012, Luna lived a luxurious life for having been a former public servant in Mexico. He worked as a private security consultant, lived in a waterfront mansion, and had access to a $700,000 yacht. Cogan ruled that prosecutors had so far failed to present any proof that García Luna’s lifestyle was “financed with cartel money.”

The Judge sided with the US prosecutor’s office to not use the case of the former Secretary of National Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, detained in the United States and accused of drug trafficking but released back to Mexico, as a context to request a dismissal of the charges. against him.

Cannibalism, Aliens & Illuminati Beliefs?

Cannibalism, Aliens, and the Illuminati are a few of the odd mentions and restricted topics also found in the filed court documents. The judge blocked defense attorneys from questioning Cifuentes-Villa about his previously stated beliefs about aliens and the Illuminati because such questions ”would distract the jury, confuse the issues, and waste time.”

Cogan’s ruling includes a sub-section entitled “Cannibalism.” The individuals involved are not named,  and Cogan barred the defense from asking about “prior acts of cannibalism” during the trial, writing that such questions would be “highly inflammatory and distracting.”