Man accused of helping run 'El Chapo' cartel due in US court

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EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Mexican man accused of running a death squad for convicted drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was due in a Texas courtroom on Wednesday to face a raft of charges.

U.S. prosecutors announced Tuesday that Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo had been extradited to Texas on 2012 charges of conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, money laundering and distribution. He made an initial appearance in an El Paso courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities described Torres as the suspected leader of Gente Nueva, or New People, an armed wing of the Sinaloa cartel mainly based in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. Torres was arrested in February 2012 in Guanajuato, Mexico, city of Leon. He was charged two months later in the same U.S. indictment as Guzman.

According to a federal indictment, Torres was a marijuana trafficker in Juarez in the late 2000s who paid a smuggling tax to the Juarez cartel through a corrupt commander for the state police. When war broke out between the Sinaloa and the Juarez cartels following a government crackdown in 2006, Torres allegedly formed Gente Nueva to carry out attacks for El Chapo. Torres was promoted to oversee all marijuana and cocaine shipments, earning the nickname "Jaguar" and branding his drug shipments with a logo of the wildcat.

From 2008 to 2012, Juarez was considered one of the most violent cities in the world, with 6,407 killings at the height of the violence in 2010. Throughout Mexico, an estimated 100,000 people were killed and about 30,000 others disappeared between 2006 and 2016.

Among the killings attributed to Torres was that of a New Mexico man who was snatched up at his wedding ceremony in Juarez in 2010. The groom and three others were killed.

The violence also allegedly included punishing wayward members of the cartel. According to the indictment, Torres allegedly ordered the kidnapping of a man with the initials S.S., corresponding with Sergio Saucedo, who was abducted from his Texas home and found dead and mutilated in Juarez.

Torres' current attorney could not immediately be identified.

Guzman was convicted in February of murder conspiracy and drug trafficking and faces a life sentence. He is seeking a new trial, alleging jury misconduct because some jurors were reported to be following media accounts.

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