BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Fighting to discredit new evidence in the massive drug-trafficking trial, a lawyer for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman raised questions Wednesday about how investigators determined that it is Guzman on the other end of a call about a $1 million heroin deal.
Defense attorney William Purpura took aim at the 2008 recording this afternoon, asking cooperating witness Pedro Flores whether the government authenticated it with “voice biometric technology.”
“All they said was, they confirmed it was his voice, and they were happy,” said Flores who testified earlier today that he recorded the call with equipment that he bought himself at RadioShack, as well as a special earpiece from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A Chicago-born distributor, Flores had purportedly been working with Guzman for about three years when he turned state’s evidence. After multiple attempts to get the alleged Sinaloa Cartel leader on the phone, he said he finally received a call on Nov. 15, 2008, at 8:32 p.m. from a number he identified as Guzman’s.
Flores had the recorder in his pocket but he said he couldn’t pick up the call right away because other people were nearby. Once he was alone two minutes later, he called the number back and hit the record button.
Recapping the call, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels played for jurors in the Brooklyn federal courthouse, Flores explained that he and Guzman were discussing a 20-kilo shipment of heroin that Guzman had sent to Chicago. Flores wanted a discount: “5 pesos,” slang for $5,000, off the $55,000-per-kilo price.
“I want to ask you for a favor,” Flores says on the call, after greetings are traded in Spanish.
“Tell me,” the other voice answers.
Flores explains that with the discount, which would bring the total price for the shipment to $1 million, he can pay right away.
“I was trying to be as normal, routine as possible,” Flores testified today.
On the call meanwhile Flores is heard telling Guzman that he wants to even things out after a bad shipment from Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, Guzman’s alleged partner.
The voice said to be Guzman is interested: “You have the money already?”
Later, he says: “All right, then I’ll pick up the money tomorrow. That’s fine, the price is fine.”
“I really appreciate it,” Flores replies.
On the stand, Flores testified that Guzman hung up at that point to work out the logistics for the money pickup in Chicago. He said Guzman called back at 9:03 p.m.
The jury, listening to this next call, hears the voice said to be Guzman tell Flores the person “is in Chicago already.”
An associate gets on the phone then to talk logistics, but the voice said to Guzman returns later. Flores advises the dealer at this point he has 3 kilos of heroin left and inquires when he can get more.
“What the fuck, man,” the purported voice of Guzman exclaims.
Flores testified that Guzman was shocked by how fast he and his brother were moving product.
“How many [kilograms of heroin] can you get rid of in a month?” the kingpin asks.
After Flores puts that number at 40, Guzman asks more questions, then concedes.
“Oh, OK, I will send it to you, then,” he says.
About two weeks later, however, Flores turned himself into the DEA. He said the discussed shipment did not come through by then.
On cross-examination defense attorney Purpura compared the voice on the tape made by Flores against “controlled calls” made in the physical presence of a DEA agent.
Last week the jury listened to video interview that Guzman gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2015, and Purpura played that recording again for Flores as comparison.
“To you, to your ear, do they sound like the same voice?” Purpura asked Flores.
“Not really, no,” said Flores. “Similar, but not really the same.”
Purpura also pointed out Flores had testified Tuesday that he has “a hard time following the rules” and is a proven double-dealer.
“If you have a hard time following rules, and you do double-deal, how ’bout those tapes?” Purpura asked. “We have your word it’s his voice?”
“Yes,” Flores replied.
Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel, was absent from the audience for the trial for the third straight day Wednesday, marking the first trial days she has not been present in the gallery.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering. Last week in court prosecutors played a recording that purports to catch Guzman talking about a cocaine arrangement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).