El Chapo cocaine supplier reveals he pulled off a real-life 'Face/Off' to escape police capture
Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán has finally been taken to trial, after two prison escapes and numerous drug charges levelled against him.
Even the opening statements from the trial earlier this month were chilling, revealing that even some of his family members weren't safe from his "thirst for blood," but now focus has moved to one of his associates who has testified.
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, Colombian leader of the North Valley Cartel, took to the stands on Thursday to talk about his twenty years in the game, during which he estimated that he helped to import approximately 40,000 kilos of cocaine into the United States, and ordered the death of 150 people - including some victims in the US.
Ramirez - also known as 'Chupeta' or 'lollipop' - explained how he would drop the cargo from his planes at landing strips, where local cartels would transport them to Los Angeles. His operation would move the drugs all the way to New York by hiding them inside cars with hidden compartments, airplanes, or even tractor trailers.
When he began working with 'El Chapo' in the early 90s, he found that the drug lord wanted a bigger cut (40% instead of 37%), but soon found that he made more with him. “He said, ‘I’m a lot faster. Try me and you’ll see,’” Ramirez recalled. Guzmán reportedly then got the cocaine across the border in less than a week, while other smugglers tended to take over a month.
“That was one of the first times the Mexican drug traffickers delivered my cocaine that quickly,” Ramirez said, revealing how their relationship became concrete. However, it wasn't long before Ramirez was on the run from authorities - and went so far as to reconstruct his face with plastic surgery to avoid arrest.
His identity erasure began in the 90s, where he would pay off all the officials he could to have every fingerprint, photo, or other record of him erased from the books. But after a stint in prison, he fled the country entirely, heading to Brazil, where he completely transformed his appearance.
Once there, he claimed he was in hiding at an extravagant mansion, where he would only ever leave for his plastic surgery procedures, as well as midnight bike rides. During this period, he still continued to operate his vast drug empire from afar, making sure to use a variety of disguises to keep from being captured by authorities.
“I had changes done to my face,” the former North Valley Cartel leader explained. “I altered the physical appearance of my jawbone, my cheekbone, my eyes, my mouth, my ears and my nose.”
While there have been immediate comparisons to the plot of the 1997 film Face/Off, Ramirez' new face was quite different, described by the New York Post as "a lizard-like look of stretched white skin, extreme cheekbones and a giant mouth".
Despite the changes he made, he was still caught. In 2007, his voice was picked up by a tapped phone, and then identified as Ramirez by US federal agents.