Prosecutors accuse the general of illicit association to distribute and import drugs and money laundering.
Former Secretary of Defense of Mexico, General Salvador “The Godfather” Cienfuegos Zepeda, pleaded not guilty this Thursday of the drug trafficking charges before a judge in New York, United States.
After his arraignment for video and audio conference before a judge was postponed due to echo problems, Cienfuegos responded to routine questions from Magistrate Steven Gold, who set the next hearing for November 18.
Prosecutors in the United States accuse the general of illicit association to distribute and import drugs and money laundering.
Prosecutors point out that Cienfuegos, 72, helped the H-2 cartel while he was the head of the armed forces from 2012 to 2018 during the government of then President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The indictment against Cienfuegos comes from the federal court for the eastern district of New York, located in Brooklyn. For that reason the general was transferred from Los Angeles to New York.
During the short hearing, Cienfuegos agreed that his lawyers meet with the prosecution to discuss the evidence in the case. The arraignment was riddled with technical problems. Judge Gold repeated over and over again that people connecting by phone had to go mute but the echo was too much and postponed the arraignment for more than an hour.
Edward Sapone, an attorney for Cienfuegos, told the AP by email that his client has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“Now that General Cienfuegos Zepeda is in our district we will consider all appropriate legal applications, including those related to bail and evidence,” Sapone said.
A possible bail was not discussed during the hearing on Thursday.
According to the website of the US federal prison office, Cienfuegos is located in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a high security prison.
New York prosecutors accuse Cienfuegos of attending the H-2 cartel in exchange for bribes.
Prosecutors have described the cartel as an organization led by Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez, also known as H-2, that operated from Nayarit and Sinaloa. The cartel, prosecutors say, had drug distribution cards in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Ohio, Minnesota, North Carolina and New York, through which thousands of kilos of drugs were distributed. In Mexico, the cartel committed assassinations and used torture against rival organizations.
Cienfuegos reportedly assisted the cartel by ensuring that no military operations were carried out against it and also initiated military operations against rival groups. The general located maritime transport for cocaine shipments and helped expand the territory, say the New York prosecutor’s office.