El Chapo’s IT Specialist Turned Into a Government Informant for the FBI to Take the Kingpin Down

January 9, 2019, 2:32 PM UTC

When El Chapo was communicating with his associates on big drug sales and payoffs to Mexican officials, he had no idea that the FBI was listening in on the conversations.

In a blockbuster reveal on Tuesday, federal prosecutors presented hundreds of conversations Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as the drug kingpin El Chapo, had with his associates. Those conversations, which were earlier reported on by The New York Times, included conversations El Chapo had on the most intimate details of his operation, including logistics for selling drugs, decisions on whether to attack police, and bribes.

According to the Times, El Chapo’s IT specialist, Cristian Rodriguez, sits at the center of those intercepted communications.

Rodriguez had developed an encrypted communications platform for El Chapo that would ostensibly allow him to communicate with his associates without fear of government interception. But in February 2010, Rodriguez unknowingly met with an undercover FBI agent in Manhattan about the possibility of selling the system to him. The agent said that he was a Russian mobster who wanted to have encrypted communication with his associates.

Caught in the trap, Rodriguez turned government informant. And after telling El Chapo that he needed to make a system upgrade and move the system’s servers to the Netherlands, he handed over encryption keys that would allow the FBI to decrypt communication and listen in on El Chapo’s conversations.

El Chapo is one of the most notorious drug kingpins in history. He’s escaped from prison in Mexico and has spent years on the run. He has been in U.S. custody since 2017 and is now facing 17 charges that could carry a term of life in prison. His trial started in November and is slated to end in March.