ABOVE + BELOW – Damaso Lopez Nuñez (aka: El Licenciado)

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This Friday, Sept 28 in a United States Federal court, Dámaso López Núñez, alias  ”El Licenciado” and presumed successor of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera  as a head of the Sinaloa Cartel, pleaded guilty to drug crimes in a US court.

After accepting his guilt, the sentence is expected to be handed down at the end of November, with a penalty of between 10 years in prison and life imprisonment.
Known as “El Licenciado”, Dámaso López Núñez was chief of security and deputy director at Puente Grande Prison, a high security prison from which he helped escape to ”El Chapo” Guzmán in January 2001.
López Nuñez and a group of former commanders of the Judicial Police of Sinaloa arrived to take charge of security in the prison and create an environment for ”El Chapo” to spread a network of corruption that eventually allowed the escape.
The drug lord, Dámaso López pleaded guilty for having trafficked drugs to the United States, being one of the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel and being part of it for 15 years.
The hearing was held in a court of the state of Virigina and the details of his next hearing where he will be sentenced remain unknown, however he could get at least 10 years in prison to life imprisonment, as well as the payment of a fine of $10,000,000, ie ten million US dollars.
López Núñez, a lawyer by profession, was extradited to the United States on July 6 after his capture by Mexican authorities. He was arrested at his lavish apartment building in Mexico City with out a shot being fired.
This capture triggered a wave of armed confrontations and homicides in Sinaloa, as the struggles for the throne of the drug empire raged.

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El Mini Lic

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According to the United States Department of the Treasury, Damaso Lopez became a great drug capo and trafficking lieutenant of the Sinaloa cartel after helping “El Chapo” to make his first escape from that maximum security prison.
There was a relationship between Dámaso López and “El Chapo” so close that they even became compadres: Dámaso López Serrano, known as the ”Mini Lic”, is the godson of Guzmán Loera, who turned himself into to US Custom officials and the DEA at the Mexicali / Calexico Border crossing in July 2017 after being in hiding for months , apparently in fear of his life. “El Mini Lic”, as he was known, formed an armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel and was allegedly behind much of the violence in the areas stated below. As a “Narco-junior” he often flaunted his extravagant lifestyle via social media.

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El Chapo

The US authorities accuse him , Damaso Lopez, senior, ie, of conspiring with others to import cocaine, between 2003 to 2016 and the Justice Department reminded him today during the hearing of the sentence the government will seek to impose on him.
“El Licenciado” was the head of one of the four fractions of the Cartel, he is considered responsible for the violence generated in the municipalities of Culiacán, Navolato and Cosalá, as well as in the state of Baja California Sur.

PROFILE: Dámaso López Núñez (aka: El Licenciado)




Dámaso López Núñez, alias “Licenciado,” is a prominent figure of the Sinaloa Cartel. Authorities believe he was the closest associate of legendary kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was arrested in January 2016 and extradited to the United States a year later. Following El Chapo’s capture, Licenciado became one of the most visible faces of the Sinaloa Cartel and was presumed to become El Chapo’s replacement. However, this is unlikely to occur now given Licenciado’s subsequent May 2017 arrest and July 2018 extradition to the United States.


Born February 22, 1966 in the state of Sinaloa, Licenciado studied law at university and later began working for the state prosecutor’s office in Sinaloa. By 1999 he became a top official in the branch of prison administration system that focused on maximum-security institutions, including the Puente Grande penitentiary in Jalisco where El Chapo was detained.

According to Mexican and US police sources, Licenciado established a network of corrupted prison guards and was personally responsible for organizing El Chapo’s escape from Puente Grande on January 19, 2001. A few months before Guzman’s prison break, Licenciado had resigned from his post at Puente Grande.

After the escape, Licenciado joined the Sinaloa Cartel and gradually became one of Guzman’s closest allies. Mexican journalist Ánabel Hernández wrote that “during 15 years in the service of ‘El Chapo,’ [Licenciado] constructed his own criminal structure that includes buying off authorities through large bribes and a wide network in Mexico, the United States, Central and South America dedicated to drug trafficking.”

El Chapo was re-arrested by Mexican authorities in February 2014, and he reportedly turned over his leadership responsibilities within the Sinaloa Cartel to Licenciado while he was incarcerated. El Chapo managed to escape from prison once again in July 2015, but he was captured in January 2016 and extradited to the United States almost exactly one year later.

The decline of El Chapo’s power within the Sinaloa Cartel and the resulting power vacuum gave Licenciado the opportunity to step up his illegal activities and fight against rival groups for the control of territories and drug trafficking routes formerly managed by El Chapo.

Licenciado was arrested in May 2017 in Mexico City before being able to fully consolidate power within the Sinaloa Cartel. He was extradited to the United States on July 6, 2018.

Criminal Activities

US authorities have accused Licenciado of being deeply involved in the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking activities. In January 2013, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Licenciado for his “significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” alleging that he was responsible for multi-ton shipments of narcotics from Mexico to the United States. In March 2013, US federal prosecutors indicted Licenciado on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, alleging that the proceeds of his criminal activities amounted to some $280 million.


Licenciado is originally from Sinaloa, and he is believed to operate in his home state as well as in Baja California Sur. Reports indicate that he has also maintained connections in drug production countries like Colombia and Peru, as well as in transit nations like Panama.

Allies and Enemies

Evidence suggests that Licenciado was looking for ways to fill the power vacuum that El Chapo’s capture left behind before his own subsequent arrest. In February 2017, Licenciado allegedly attempted to kill the leader of another Sinaloa Cartel faction, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, as well as two of El Chapo’s sons, but the attack did not succeed. The incident led authorities believethat Licenciado was fighting for a place at the top of the Sinaloa Cartel, putting him in potential conflict with other factions of the organization, a factor which may have played a role in his capture.

Licenciado’s son, Dámaso López Serrano, alias “Mini Lic,” is reportedly following his father’s footsteps. Reports indicate that Mini Lic became involved in drug trafficking from an early age and began leading a youth faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, which dubbed themselves Los Antrax.


After being captured for a second time in February 2014, El Chapo reportedly claimed that Licenciado would be his successor. Captured yet again in January 2016 and finally extradited to the United States only a year later, El Chapo’s statement is unlikely to be fulfilled now that Licenciado has been captured and faces extradition.

Rival factions of the Sinaloa Cartel are currently fighting against each other, while other major drug trafficking organizations across Mexico are trying to penetrate into territories formerly under the Sinaloa Cartel’s control. In this state of flux, Licenciado’s capture leaves the cartel further weakened and at risk of continued fragmentation, serving as a reminder that the struggle for power within the Sinaloa Cartel is all but finished.

BACKGROUND: Senior Sinaloa Cartel Leader Extradited to the United States

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Senior Sinaloa Cartel Leader Extradited to the United States

Today, Mexican authorities extradited Sinaloa Cartel leader Damaso Lopez Nuñez, also known as “El Licenciado,” to the United States to face drug trafficking charges filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia, Assistant Director Robert Johnson of the FBI Headquarters Criminal Investigative Division, Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI Washington Field Office and Acting Special Agent in Charge Scott W. Hoernke of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Washington Division Office made the announcement.

Lopez Nuñez, 52, arrived in the United States this afternoon and will make an initial appearance on Monday, July 9, before U.S. Magistrate Michael S. Nachmanoff in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Lopez Nuñez is charged in a one-count indictment alleging that between 2003 and December 2016, Lopez Nuñez conspired with others to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States.

“Until his capture, Damaso Lopez Nuñez allegedly participated in a multi-year conspiracy to distribute large amounts of cocaine, intending that the drugs be imported to the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “Lopez Nuñez’s arrest and extradition demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our partners in Mexico to the pursuit of drug traffickers who seek to flood our streets with addictive and deadly poisons, for their own illicit gain.”

“This successful extradition of a high-level target is a reflection of years of collaboration and cooperation by multiple Department of Justice units and our law enforcement partners who are all committed to combatting transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger.  “With thanks to the authorities in Mexico for their efforts in facilitating this extradition so the defendant can be held accountable and face justice for his alleged crimes.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the DEA, in cooperation with Mexican and Colombian law enforcement authorities.  Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in bringing Lopez Nuñez to the United States.  The U.S. Marshals Service provided critical assistance in the location and capture of Lopez Nuñez and assisted in the extradition.

The U.S. Department of Justice thanks the Government of Mexico for its assistance in this case.

This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Deputy Chief Amanda Liskamm, Assistant Deputy Chief Michael Lang, and Trial Attorney Cole Radovich of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel J. Grooms and James L. Trump of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.