The woman who left aerospace engineering to work with Los Chapitos


Ana Gabriela Rubio Zea, a Guatemalan engineer and entrepreneur, was extradited to the United States last week for her alleged involvement in the international trafficking network of fentanyl led by the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Rubio Zea, who obtained a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, was arrested on March 17, 2023, along with four other Guatemalan nationals, as part of a joint operation between the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Guatemalan Public Ministry.

According to the US Department of Justice, Rubio Zea was a key partner of the faction of the Sinaloa Cartel known as Los Chapitos, headed by Iván Archivaldo, Jesús Alfredo, Ovidio and Joaquín Guzmán López, the sons of the former drug lord El Chapo.

She was accused of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment if convicted.

The US authorities allege that Rubio Zea was responsible for purchasing 25 kilograms of N-BOC-4-Piperidone, a precursor chemical used to produce fentanyl, from a Chinese company called SXPC, allegedly on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel.

She also allegedly arranged the shipment of the chemical from China to Guatemala, where it was stored in a warehouse owned by her company, Aeroespacial de Guatemala, S.A., which offered services such as aircraft maintenance, flight training and aerial photography.

The DEA claims that Rubio Zea was in contact with Los Chapitos and other members of the cartel, such as Jesús Raúl Beltrán León, alias “El Chuy Raúl”, who was extradited to the US in 2018 and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in 2020.

The DEA also says that Rubio Zea used her company as a front to launder money from the drug sales, and that she received payments from Los Chapitos through bank accounts in Hong Kong, Panama and the US.

Rubio Zea is one of the 22 defendants named in an indictment filed by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in April 2023, which accuses Los Chapitos and their associates of coordinating the most dangerous and prolific fentanyl trafficking network in the world.

The indictment alleges that Los Chapitos imported large quantities of fentanyl from China and Mexico to the US, where they distributed it to various criminal organizations, such as the Bronx 280 and the Young Gunnerz gangs in New York.

The indictment also alleges that Los Chapitos used social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, and encrypted applications, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire and Wickr, to coordinate the logistics and communicate with the victims.

The US authorities claim that the fentanyl trafficked by Los Chapitos is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in the US, where the synthetic opioid has been declared a public health crisis.

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, to increase their effects, but also their risks.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, the highest number ever recorded. Of those, more than 60% involved synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl.

The US authorities have identified Mexico and China as the main sources of fentanyl and its precursors, and have accused the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) of being the main smugglers of the drug into the US.

The extradition of Rubio Zea is part of the efforts of the US government to dismantle the fentanyl trafficking network of Los Chapitos and to bring them to justice. However, Los Chapitos remain at large and are considered fugitives by the US.

Source: Milenio