Mexico arrests alleged security chief for the ‘Chapitos’ wing of the Sinaloa drug cartel

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Guard officers on Wednesday arrested the hyper violent, alleged security chief for the “Chapitos” wing of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

The Public Safety Department’s arrest registry says Nestor Isidro Pérez Salas was detained around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at a walled property in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan. The department listed his alias as “El Nini.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in April had posted a $3 million reward for his capture. Pérez Salas is wanted on U.S. charges of conspiracy to import and distribute fentanyl in the United States. But he also allegedly left a trail of murder and torture behind him in Mexico.

He allegedly protected the sons of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The sons lead a faction of the cartel known as the little Chapos, or “Chapitos” that has been identified as one of the main exporters of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, to the U.S. market.

Fentanyl has been blamed for about 70,000 overdose deaths per year in the United States.

Pérez Salas allegedly ran security for the Chapitos in Sinaloa state, according to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. He was among nearly two dozen defendants named earlier this year in an indictment.

Pérez Salas commanded a security team known as the Ninis, “a particularly violent group of security personnel for the Chapitos,” according to the indictment unsealed in April. The Ninis “received military-style training in multiple areas of combat, including urban warfare, special weapons and tactics, and sniper proficiency.”

The nickname Nini is apparently a reference to a Mexican slang saying “neither nor,” used to describe youths who neither work nor study.

Pérez Salas allegedly participated in the torture of a Mexican federal agent in 2017. He and others tortured the man for two hours, inserting a corkscrew into his muscles, ripping it out and placing hot chiles in the wounds.

Prosecutors also accuse Pérez Salas of testing batches of fentanyl on victims who were tied down, injected and who later died.

Ovidio Guzman López, one of the Chapitos, was extradited to the United States in September to face drug trafficking, weapons and other charges. His father, El Chapo, is serving a life sentence in the U.S.

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