Ovidio Guzman Lopez, the son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges during his first court appearance since being extradited to the US from Mexico.
Guzman Lopez was extradited on Friday, five months after US prosecutors unsealed sprawling indictments against him and his brothers, known collectively as the “Chapitos”.
The indictments laid out how, following their father’s extradition and eventual life sentence in the US in 2019, the brothers steered the cartel increasingly into synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and the powerful opioid fentanyl.
Mexican security forces captured Guzman Lopez, known as “the Mouse”, in January in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, the cartel’s namesake.
His arrest set off violence that left 30 people dead, including 10 military personnel.
Mexico’s army used Black Hawk helicopter gunships against the cartel’s truck-mounted 50-caliber machine guns. Cartel gunmen hit two military aircraft, forcing them to land, and sent gunmen to the city’s airport, where military and civilian aircraft were hit by gunfire.
Three years earlier, the government tried to capture Guzman Lopez, but aborted the operation after similar violence.
The US indictments against the brothers that were unsealed in April said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price.
The brothers denied the allegations in a letter.
“We have never produced, manufactured or commercialised fentanyl nor any of its derivatives,” the letter said. “We are victims of persecution and have been made into scapegoats.”
Homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall said in statement that the extradition of Guzman Lopez “is testament to the significance of the ongoing co-operation between the American and Mexican governments on countering narcotics and other vital challenges”.
Ms Sherwood-Randall made multiple visits to Mexico this year to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador, most recently last month.
Mr Lopez Obrador has described his country as a transit point for fentanyl precursors coming from China and bound for the US, despite assertions by the US government and his own military about production in Mexico.
District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman set November 17 as the next court date for Guzman Lopez.