The cartel’s IT guy screwed up

Tech support was among the many services that Cifuentes said he offered to Chapo. He testified that he sent a Colombian systems engineer named Cristián to set up an encrypted network for the cartel in the rugged mountains of Sinaloa. Cifuentes said Cristián hooked Chapo up with wireless internet and a custom network that offered “secure communications.”

Cifuentes appeared to be vigilant about digital security. Prosecutors showed the jury his detailed accounting records, which included items like “cellular inhibitors” and “microphone searchers” among his expenses. “You turn it on during a meeting and there’s no way anyone can tape it or send out anything,” Cifuentes said, describing one of the devices.

Being the Sinaloa cartel’s tech guru was not an easy job. Prosecutors played the jury excerpts of a taped phone call where Cristián complains about being scolded for the encrypted network being down. Another member of the Cifuentes clan, Jorge’s younger brother Alex, was living with Chapo in the mountains and apparently laying into Cristián about the service outage.

The irony was that authorities were only able to obtain the call because the men were forced to use conventional cellphones while their secure network was down. Cifuentes called Cristián “an irresponsible person,” and said the engineer screwed up by forgetting to renew the license on the software they had purchased.