CHICAGO (AP) — For the first time since Prohibition, Chicago has a new Public Enemy No. 1 — a drug kingpin in Mexico deemed so menacing that he’s been assigned the famous label created for Al Capone.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was singled out for his role as leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which supplies the bulk of narcotics sold in the city, according to the Chicago Crime Commission and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“What Al Capone was to beer and whiskey, Guzman is to narcotics,” said Al Bilek, the commission’s executive vice president, describing Guzman as a greater threat than Capone ever was.
He said Guzman deserved the designation for the “viciousness, the evil and the power of this man.”
The commission designated Capone Public Enemy No. 1 in 1930. The non-government body that tracks city crime trends has called other people public enemies, but Capone was the only person ever declared its No. 1.
Unlike Capone, Guzman doesn’t live in Chicago. He lives far away in a mountain hideaway in western Mexico. But for all the havoc he creates in the nation’s third-largest city, he ought to be treated as a local crime boss, the DEA’s top Chicago official, Jack Riley, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
His office joined the commission in handing out the moniker to Guzman.
Capone based his bootlegging and other criminal enterprises out of Chicago during Prohibition, when it was illegal to make or sell alcohol in the U.S. He eventually went to prison for income tax evasion, but he gained the most notoriety for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that left seven rivals dead.
Yet Riley says Guzman is more ruthless than Capone.
“If I was to put those two guys in a ring, El Chapo would eat that guy (Capone) alive,” Riley said.
Sinaloa and other Mexican cartels that ship drugs to Chicago are rarely directly linked to slayings in the city, but Riley said cartel-led drug trafficking is an underlying cause of territorial battles between street gangs that are blamed for rising homicide rates.
He described Chicago as one of Sinaloa’s most important cities, not only as a destination for drugs but as a hub to distribute them across the U.S.
“This is where Guzman turns his drugs into money,” he said.
Despite his nickname — “El Chapo” means “shorty” in Spanish — Guzman is one of the world’s most dangerous and most wanted outlaws. He’s also one of the richest: Forbes magazine has estimated the value of his fortune at around $1 billion.
Guzman has been indicted on federal trafficking charges in Chicago and, if he is ever captured alive, American authorities want him extradited here to face trial. The U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward for his capture.
“His time is coming,” Riley said. “I can’t wait for that day.”