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Ex high-ranking Mexican officers charged in drug scheme

NEW YORK — Two former high-ranking Mexican law enforcement officials have been accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes to protect Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s notorious Sinaloa cartel, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Luis Cardenas Palomino and Ramon Pequeno Garcia allegedly worked for Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico’s former top security official, who is also facing drug trafficking charges. According to prosecutors, the three men “permitted the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico.”

Garcia Luna is pending trial in New York on charges he conspired to traffic cocaine and made false statements. On Thursday, a superseding indictment charged him with continuing criminal enterprise. Cardenas Palomino and Pequeno Garcia have not been arrested, prosecutors said.

“Through today’s superseding indictment, Garcia Luna and his co-conspirators will face justice for offenses involving the importation and the distribution of massive quantities of dangerous drugs into the United States,” said Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

From 2001 to 2005, Garcia Luna led Mexico’s federal investigation agency, and from 2006 to 2012, he served as Mexico’s Secretary of Public Security.

Garcia Luna denies the charges and says he intends to fight them at his New York City trial. His defense attorney, Cesar de Castro, has said the case is built upon the discredited — and self-serving — accounts of drug traffickers.

Garcia Luna is accused of accepting tens of millions of dollars in bribes — often stuffed in briefcases full of cash — to shield the Sinaloa cartel from law enforcement.

Before convicting Guzman last year, jurors in his New York trial heard former cartel member Jesus Zambada testify that he personally made at least $6 million in hidden payments to Garcia Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison last year after a jury convicted him in a massive drug conspiracy involving murder and mayhem.

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