High-rank member of the Sinaloa Cartel sues the U.S. Justice Department for torture

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Marco Antonio Paredes Machado

Marco Paredes-Machado said the U.S. arranged for him to be arrested and tortured to extract information about the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, run by infamous drug kingpin El Chapo.

A Mexican man who pleaded guilty to distributing more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana for the Sinaloa Cartel sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the U.S. District of Colorado on Thursday for subjecting him to overly harsh supermax prison conditions and solitary confinement after he refused to provide intelligence.

“No similarly situated cartel member under the jurisdiction of the BOP has received the ‘notorious’ designation that Mr. Paredes-Machado received. No plaza boss has been shipped off to ADX. Mr. Paredes-Machado constitutes a class of one, singled out for draconian punishment for no purpose other than to coerce him into speaking to the United States government,” the 45-page complaint said.

The Sinaloa Cartel was led by Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, also known as El Chapo, who was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years by a federal judge in 2019.

In the complaint, Marco Paredes-Machado compared his role as a plaza boss for the cartel to that of a regional distribution manager and that the U.S. government targeted him for access to organizational information.

The Drug Enforcement Agency thought Paredes-Machado would be able to provide information on other people of interest in the cartel, including Benjamin Leopoldo Jaramillo-Feliz, known as Nene, Julian Aguirre-Aguirre, called Censio, and Manuel Avendano, who went by El Meno. From there, the U.S. government aimed to take down the infamous El Chapo.

In November 2005, the U.S. charged Paredes-Machado with conspiracy to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana in order to extradite him from Agua Prieta, Mexico, detain him under U.S. custody, and extract intelligence from him.

In January 2011, the Mexican Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección arrested Paredes-Machado, which he then claimed subjected him to torture, waterboarding, and threats that his wife would be raped.

According to the complaint, Mexican SSP agents told him “Si no cooperas a tu señora se le va llevar la chingada y ahorita vas a ver como va a gritar,” translated to “If you don’t cooperate there will be horrible consequences for your woman, and soon you will see how she will scream.”

“This torture was done at the behest and with the knowledge of American government officials with the goal to extract information that the United States was bent on obtaining,” the complaint said. “Mr. Paredes-Machado believed that both he and his wife would be killed if he did not cooperate. Mr. Paredes-Machado then agreed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear.”

Under duress, Paredes-Machado rehearsed the answers to questions scripted by SSP agents and confessed on videotape, per the complaint.

In 2015, Paredes-Machado was extradited to the U.S. where he pled guilty, was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and eventually sent to endure “complete isolation from the world at the Administrative Maximum Security Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado,” known as ADX.

Rather than being detained at a low-security facility, the federal government arranged for Paredes-Machado to be held at ADX by accusing him of having connections to the Islamic State terrorist organization.

“The ADX transfer report falsely alleged that Mr. Paredes-Machado had pledged allegiance to ISIS, had an ISIS tattoo on his back, and posed a threat to others, thereby justifying his transfer to ADX,” the complaint said.

When the Bureau of Prisons determined Paredes-Machado was not a member of the Islamic State, it instead stamped him with the label “notorious” to justify the transfer.

Paredes-Machado said the U.S. government transferred him to the supermax prison and subjected him to solitary confinement in an effort to force him to provide information against his will.

On several occasions, U.S. attorneys requested to speak with Paredes-Machado and arranged for him to be transferred into “the harshest, most restrictive prison in the country,” in order to gain leverage, per the complaint.

The complaint accuses the U.S. of subjecting Paredes-Machado to unconstitutional coercion to speak with the government, as well as disparate treatment to similarly situated people, and violating the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to provide documents related to his transfer.

Among his request for relief, Parades-Machado asks the court to issue a mandamus compelling the federal government to transfer him out of ADX and to process an application for home confinement.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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