null: nullpx
United States

Spanish speaking Argentine-American is prosecutor in high profile 'Chapo' drug case

The U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn's Eastern District, who is heading the case against the world's most powerful alleged drug lord, is a lawyer of Argentine origin.
23 Ene 2017 – 02:49 PM EST
Courtroom artists' sketch of Chapo Guzman's first appearance in New York Crédito: AP

U.S. prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg won't have any trouble understanding the trickiest parts of the case file against Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman.

A lawyer of Argentine origin, she speaks the "official" language of drug trafficking with a touch of a Buenos Aires accent.

Her language skill has given her a rare understanding of the inner workings of drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico, their connections and the power of corruption, according to sources consulted by Univision Investiga.

"At this moment, there is no U.S. Attorney who knows the cartels in Mexico better, and how they operate,'' said a person close to her, who asked not to be identified. "She knows the names of every drug lord, no matter how big or small,'' he added.

Goldbarg, a petite woman roughly the same height as 'Chapo' (Shorty) Guzman, was present on Friday when the Sinaloa kingpin made his first court appearance in the Eastern District of Brooklyn, where he was indicted on 17 charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and violent crimes.

Those who know her describe her as a prosecutor who keeps her distance, communicating with the defendants' lawyers in a cordial but cold, very strict and studious way.

Some federal narcotics agents "respect her and fear her'' because she is a stickler about the procedures and deadlines she sets on her court orders, said one of the sources.

Before returning last December to the district of Brooklyn, where she had already worked as deputy district attorney from 2005 to 2010, she served in Washington as assistant to the deputy director of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section of the Department of Justice under Loretta Lynch, who would later be picked as U.S. Attorney General.

Goldbarg worked directly under Carolyn Pokorny, Lynch's chief of staff.

During her stint in Washington, sources added, Goldbarg became familiar with the processes against the heads of the Colombian drug cartels, especially the case of Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadía, alias Chupeta, one of the leading suppliers of cocaine to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Ramirez, a powerful leader of the brutal Northern Valley Cartel, is credited with amassing $1.8 billion in the drug trade. He was extradited from Colombia to the United States in August 2008. His decision to cooperate with prosecutors likely helped Goldbarg become familiar with the dynamics of both organizations and the role of Guzman in smuggling drugs into the United States, said one of the sources.

Goldbarg graduated as a lawyer from the Boston University School of Law in 2001. Several publications have cited a study, apparently her degree thesis, on "structural corruption'' and the U.S. legal prohibition of overseas bribes. She began her career in a private firm in New York, and between 2002 and 2003, she was the secretary of the Federal Court of the Southern District of California.

She is currently in charge of another major drug case against Alfredo Beltran Leyva, alias 'El Mochomo,' originally an ally and later a rival of Guzman, who was extradited from Mexico to the District of Columbia in late 2014 where he is facing drug charges. Beltran is the brother of Arturo Beltran Leyva, deceased leader of the organization named after the family.

Alfredo Beltran Leyva was allegedly responsible for coordinating drug flights from Colombia to Mexico. His case is scheduled to go to trial in a matter of months. Judging by the motions that have been filed, the prosecutor plans to present witnesses able to provide a comprehensive overview of official drug corruption in Mexico and ties to the cartels.

Sources say Goldbarg also plans to target Vicente Carrillo Leyva, leader of the Juarez Cartel and Damaso Lopez Nuñez, alias El Licenciado, the alleged right hand man of Guzman who helped arrange his first notorious prison escape.