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Press Release

Co-Founder of Sinaloa Cartel Charged in Superseding Indictment with Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Fentanyl

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia Allegedly Continues to Lead the Sinaloa Cartel From Hiding

A fifth superseding indictment was filed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as “El Mayo,” with conspiring to manufacture and distribute a substance, containing N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide (“fentanyl”), a Schedule II controlled substance intending and knowing that such substances would be unlawfully imported into the United States.  Zambada was previously charged in multiple superseding indictments with running a continuing criminal enterprise, as well as murder conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl manufacture and distribution conspiracy, as well as other drug-related crimes, through his continuing leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.  The fifth superseding indictment extends the end-dates of the continuing criminal enterprise and several conspiracies from May 2014 to January 2024. Zambada Garcia remains at large.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Anne Milgram, Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ivan J. Arvelo, Acting Assistant Director of Domestic Operations, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); David Sundberg, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Field Office (FBI); Edward A. Caban, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Steven G. James, Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP), announced the fifth superseding indictment.

“As alleged, Zambada Garcia is charged with numerous drug offenses, now including the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl, a deadly drug that was largely unheard of when he founded the Sinaloa Cartel more than three decades ago and today is responsible for immeasurable harm,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “While Zambada Garcia continues to be a principal leader of the criminal enterprise responsible for importing enormous quantities of narcotics into the United States, this fifth superseding indictment demonstrates our firm resolve to bring him to justice, just as we did with his former co-conspirator El Chapo, and just as we will continue to do to all those who traffic drugs and seek to profit from the devastation inflicted on our communities.”

Mr. Peace also expressed his thanks to the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section for its assistance on the case.

“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat Americans have ever faced, and the Sinaloa Cartel continues to be the largest trafficker of fentanyl into the United States,” stated DEA Administrator Milgram.  “With fentanyl the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45, we must continue to hold Zambada Garcia and other cartel leaders, members, and associates accountable for the people they have killed.” 

“As the co-founder and current leader of the largest, most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world, Ismael Zambada Garcia is accused of supplying fentanyl to the United States at a time when the lethal narcotic has claimed lives at a devastating rate. For decades, the ruthlessly violent Sinaloa Cartel has continued its deadly scourge with the pervasive trafficking of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other synthetic drugs into the U.S,” stated HSI Acting Assistant Director Arvelo.  “HSI New York and our law enforcement partners will not stop until we bring Zambada Garcia to justice on behalf of his countless victims.”

“As alleged, Zambada Garcia has, for decades, overseen the trafficking of tens of thousands of pounds of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl into the U.S. along with scores of related violence,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sundberg. “This superseding indictment is yet another example of our commitment to bringing cartel leaders to justice. We vow to continue to work with our domestic and foreign partners to dismantle violent transnational criminal organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel.”

“After the arrest and successful conviction of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera, NYPD investigators remained fully dedicated to our law enforcement partnership focused on bringing the Sinaloa Cartel’s remaining leadership to justice,” stated NYPD Commissioner Caban.  “This latest charge against Mr. Zambada Garcia further demonstrates our commitment to keeping the illicit products of his massive, violent criminal enterprise from entering our country and plaguing our cities’ streets.”

“We simply will not tolerate this type of illegal drug trafficking activity in our country and New York State. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and all our law enforcement partners for their tenacious work on this case. It is because of their ongoing collaboration and steadfast commitment that we are one step closer to shutting down this dangerous enterprise and placing Mr. Garcia behind bars,” stated NYSP Superintendent James.

As alleged, Zambada Garcia was a co-founder of the Sinaloa Cartel with his former co-defendant Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.  Guzman Loera was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn in February 2019 and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.  Zambada Garcia has continued to evade capture, and, as alleged, continues to run the Sinaloa Cartel from Mexico.  According to the superseding indictment, from 1989 to 2024, Zambada Garcia led a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for the importation and distribution of massive quantities of narcotics and which generated billions of dollars in profits.  To ensure the success of the cartel, Zambada Garcia employed individuals to obtain transportation routes and warehouses to import and store narcotics, and “sicarios,” or hit men, to carry out kidnappings and murders in Mexico to retaliate against rivals who threatened the cartel.  The millions of dollars generated from the drug sales were then transported back to Mexico.  Guzman Loera’s name has been removed from the fifth superseding indictment in light of his 2018 trial conviction.

Under the statute, the amount of fentanyl involved in the conspiracy attributable to the defendant as a result of his own conduct, and the conduct of others reasonably foreseeable to him, was at least 400 grams or more, but a vastly larger quantity would be proven at trial.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

The U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Zambada Garcia.  If you have information, please contact the DEA at +1-619-540-6912, which can accept messages from social messaging applications, or via email at  If you are located outside of the United States, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Francisco J. Navarro, Robert M. Pollack, and Lauren A. Bowman are in charge of the prosecution.

This superseding indictment is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The Defendant:

ISMAEL ZAMBADA GARCIA (also known as “El Mayo”)
Age:  76

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 9-CR-466 (BMC)


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated February 15, 2024

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime