‘El Chapo’ Guzman: How He Hoaxed The DEA And Used Off The Shelf Gadgetry To Evade Capture

“El Chapo” Guzman has gone to enormous lengths to ensure that he stays out of jail following his escape from Mexico’s Altiplano maximum security prison earlier this year. Having dedicated his resources to evading authorities for more than a decade, El Chapo has been able to cultivate deep connections in the country’s most formidable institutions, making it almost impossible for the Mexican government to recapture him. This is in addition to having a dedicated team of confidants, using sophisticated evasive technology, and having more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

Starting with an incident that happened in 2013, that highlights just how effective his connections in the Mexican government are, a bodyguard for Mario López Valdez, the current and then-governor of Sinaloa offered shocking details about his boss and El Chapo. Through a number of YouTube videos, he revealed how at one time just after Valdez had taken office, he accompanied his superior to a meeting with El Chapo. In one of the videos, the governor was shown to be giving orders to his subordinates to avoid antagonizing El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel and instead work to bring down the cartel’s rivals. The governor however denied the allegations, saying the videos were doctored. In August 2014, the bodyguard was found dead in Sinaloa, with his body decapitated. This is as revealed by New Yorker.

On the gadgetry side, El Chapo is said to have been forced by circumstances to up his game. A few years ago, his compulsive use of a Blackberry phone to communicate got him into trouble. Apparently, the phone had given him a false sense of security against wire tapping due to the Black Berry Messenger service, which offers a dedicated connection between two phones. The fact that Blackberry is a Canadian and not an American company also appealed to El Chapo. However, by 2012, the DEA had begun monitoring the communications carried out through the phone.

Black Berry Classic phone [Image via Blackberry] Black Berry Classic phone [Image via Blackberry]DEA agents could also locate him using the device using geolocation technology, and soon they devised a plan to capture El Chapo after tracing him to a mansion in Los Cabos near the Mexican coast. In a surprise attack, they knocked down the front door, but the ever quick El Chapo snuck out through the back door before they could get in. Apparently, he walked into the resort next door, where he blended into the crowd of revellers. With the US authorities still monitoring the signals from his phone, they followed him around the town for a few days as he tried to organize for transportation to the Sinaloa mountains, which is his safe haven.

It is believed that El Chapo soon figured out that his phone was his Achilles heel and decided to use that to his advantage by giving it to one of his unsuspecting aides. Not knowing he had thrown them off his trail, the marines followed the signals and finally decided to pounce only to find they had the wrong guy. By this time, El Chapo had made his way to the desert and boarded a plane to Sierra Madre, one of his strongholds.

Picture of Sinaloa Cartel planes shared by Ivan Guzman - his son on Twitter [Image via Twitter] Picture of Sinaloa Cartel planes shared by Ivan Guzman – his son on Twitter [Image via Twitter]From then on, he used a series of individuals to send and receive messages to associates, with the whole exchange being carried out via public Wi-Fi hotspots to avoid detection by telephone networks. A woman dubbed The Voice, or La Voz in Spanish, who acted as El Chapo’s personal assistant relayed and replied messages for him, sending them to a guy in an area with public Wi-Fi, who then sent to another who finally sent it to the intended recipient.

This made it very hard for the authorities to trace El Chapo’s communications. El Chapo also used countersurveillance scanners to detect transmitters in rooms in which he held meetings. He was so secure that he could comfortably attend ceremonies without fear of being monitored. This is as reported by CBS News.

[Image via Twitter]