The allegations were recounted in documents unsealed Friday, just two days before jurors in Guzmán’s drug-trafficking trial in New York are set to begin deliberations. Guzmán’s attorney, A. Eduardo Balarezo, called them “extremely salacious.”
“Joaquín denies the allegations, which lack any corroboration and were deemed too prejudicial and unreliable to be admitted at trial,” Balarezo said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the material was publicly released just prior to the jury beginning deliberations.”
For two months, federal prosecutors portrayed Guzmán as a ruthless leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Testimonies, replete with tales of bloody assassinations, corrupt public officials and tunnels used for escapes and drug-smuggling operations, have offered an unprecedented glimpse into a secretive and sprawling empire that officials said funneled drugs into the United States for more than two decades.
But stories alleging brazen sex lives and beliefs about the “Illuminati” and witch doctors were left out of the testimonies. Prosecutors did not believe they were relevant to proving Guzmán’s drug-trafficking activities, according to court records.
The documents were made public following letters from media organizations, including the New York Times, which had complained of the trial’s secrecy. Prosecutors also said there is no longer a need to keep the documents sealed because the identities of cooperating witnesses mentioned in the records have been publicly revealed.
The allegations came from a person identified in court records as “Cooperating Witness No. 1” and in media reports as Alex Cifuentes, a former right-hand man who had testified that Guzmán bragged about paying former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto a $100 million bribe.
Cifuentes told officials that he lived with Guzmán from 2007 to 2008 and that they raped underage girls during that time. Cifuentes said he helped Guzmán drug the girls by placing a powdery substance in their drinks and that he had intercourse with teens as young as 15, according to court records.
Mexico’s penal code says that sexual acts with minors younger than 15 are considered sexual abuse.
The documents also included references to Cifuentes’s eccentric beliefs. Cellphone communications intercepted by law enforcement agencies showed that Cifuentes has interests in the Illuminati, Freemasonry and UFOs and had communicated with an associate about an impending 2012 apocalypse. Court records say Cifuentes also believed in astrology and had obtained snake oils from a witch doctor.
Prosecutors did not introduce that information at trial because doing so would elicit testimony about the witness’s sexual activities and unorthodox beliefs, none of which, they said, are relevant to the crimes Guzmán was accused of. A defense cross examination of one of the government’s cooperating witnesses “would be unfairly prejudicial and would unnecessarily harass” Cifuentes, according to court records.
Buried in the documents is another rape allegation that was also not presented at trial. One paragraph says Guzmán raped one of the government’s witnesses, began a romantic relationship with her and drew her into the drug enterprise. The only woman among the prosecutors' cooperating witnesses is Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, one of Guzmán’s mistresses, the New York Times reported.
Sánchez had testified earlier that she escaped with Guzmán through a tunnel on Feb. 17, 2014, when a team of Mexican marines showed up at his front door, the Times reported.
Guzmán was captured five days later in the Mexican town of Mazatlan, only to escape in 2015 through a tunnel from his cell’s shower to an abandoned home a mile away. He was recaptured in 2016, and Mexican authorities decided to send him to the United States to face trial.
He first fled a Mexican prison in 2001, when he engineered an escape in a laundry cart with the help of prison officials he had bribed, court records say.
While behind bars, Guzmán managed to keep running his drug empire. Prison officials he had bribed allowed him to communicate freely with family members using his own cellphone, court records say. One prison official, now a government witness, was given a house in Guadalajara, Mexico, court records say.
Guzmán’s defense team has portrayed him as a scapegoat whose “mythological” status as a drug kingpin was a creation of the Mexican and U.S. governments. In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman compared cooperating witnesses to “gutter human beings” and said they are lying to save themselves.
Guzmán is charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, drug trafficking and firearm counts. He faces life in prison if convicted. Jurors will begin deliberations Monday.
Edith Honan, Mark Berman, Katie Zezima and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.