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Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has reportedly hired renowned New York defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who notably got John Gotti off. In addition to Gotti's champion, El Chapo has hired a whole team of "high powered," and likely high-priced, defense attorneys.
Previously, El Chapo, an international drug kingpin, was represented by the public defender's office. Prior to the announcement of the new counsel, who are still yet to appear in court, El Chapo's public defender filed a motion to dismiss based upon alleged misrepresentations made to Mexican authorities.
Who Is El Chapo?
El Chapo is being charged with running, and being a key player, in an international drug trafficking operation based in Mexico that smuggled cocaine, heroin, and meth. The drug war in Mexico, which involved his cartel, and rivals, has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people. El Chapo is not candid about his exploits, and has been convicted in Mexico for drug trafficking, and escaped prison, not once, but twice. In an interview, conducted by Sean Penn (of all people) for Rolling Stone magazine, he proudly proclaimed: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world."
He was re-arrested in 2016 by Mexican authorities, and then extradited into the United States where he faces federal criminal charges of smuggling, literally, tons of drugs, and murdering countless individuals.
Are You Getting Paid or Washing Money
As noted by Reuters, one potential issue for the new team of attorneys might be getting paid. They have asked for assurances about their legal fees not having to be disgorged. While, it may be difficult to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate monies, the 2016 SCOTUS in Luis v. United States will likely be instructive, if not controlling.
As many criminal defense attorneys know, accepting dirty money can lead to real problems. The proceeds of criminal activity are subject to forfeiture, which means that attorneys need to know where their retainers are sourced from, especially if they are in the form of cold hard cash. Otherwise, attorneys would be perfectly positioned to launder money and/or protect it from government forfeiture.