Chicago witness targeted by El Chapo cartel hustled to secure location

CHICAGO -- Behind a curtain of secrecy and security, U.S. prison officials have moved a top Sinaloa cartel operative who was targeted for a "head splitting" by lieutenants of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in Chicago.

Dámaso López Serrano, known as "the Mini Lic," was hustled away from his prison cell in New York City after it was revealed in a Chicago federal court case that Jesús Raúl Beltrán León had put a hit out on the former associate for snitching.

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Serrano-El Chapo's godson-wasn't named in court records during the sentencing of Beltran Leon, but is known to be Cooperating Witness 1 who was to be severely harmed..."split his head" is how prosecutors described the 25-thousand dollars beating hit on the cartel operative. The beating attack was apparently to be carried out in retribution at the MCC Chicago last April when the star government witness was locked up there.

The attack never happened but authorities were so concerned about the threat that they hustled "Mini Lic" Serrano out of his New York prison cell with no notice. U.S. Bureau of prison records reveal that Serrano is now housed at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. The facility is an administrative security center for prisoners who require special protection. Most prisoners stay at the Oklahoma City facility for only a short time before more permanent prison housing can be assigned. The prison in Oklahoma has an attached airport and secure jet way used to prisoner comings and goings-and is the headquarters for the Bureau of Prison's so-called "Con Air" made famous in a Hollywood film by the same name.

Judge Ruben Castillo last month sentenced Beltran Leon to 28 years in prison. Castillo said at sentencing that Beltran Leon, one of El Chapo's most trusted allies, that he was "fortunate that the prosecutors did not prove that you ordered the gang members to attack a key witness of the United States government, because if that had been the case, the fact alone would have merited a minimum sentence of 35 years."

Beltran Leon had pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and his case has ended.

But, one of the reasons Justice Department officials have been so concerned about Mini Lic's continued well-being is that there are upcoming trials where he could be called to testify. He's no choir boy, having admitted a hand in more than a dozen drug murders and 20 kidnappings.

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