By the time he was twenty-one, he had already earned half a million dollars in exchange for shielding communications from the Colombian drug gang Cifuentes and Mexican drug lord Chapo Guzmán. But it cost him dearly: nervous breakdowns, hospitalizations, electroshocks.
Colombian Christian Rodriguez, 32, a witness of the US government in the trial of ex-leader of the Sinaloa cartel Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman and his former communications chief, told the jury on Thursday that he suffered so much stress when working with the FBI in 2013 that He finished twice in the hospital.
Part of the stress, he revealed, was that he had two parallel families, both with children, and that one of them was not aware of the existence of the other.
Rodríguez started working in communications security for the Cifuentes in Colombia in 2008, and through them he met Chapo that same year and started working for him.
“I had too much stress on me,” Rodriguez told the jury, who is still taking medication and is on therapy. “They gave me electroconvulsive therapy,” he added, but said it did not affect his distant memory, but only the day before and the day after treatment.
The FBI trap
The former engineering student said he personally met Chapo about 12 times.
He said that once, when they were in the mountains of Sinaloa, the army came to capture them and with the accused and about 15 of his men had to escape and walk for three days in the mountains. El Chapo was “very calm”, he said, but he “very scared”.
In 2010, the FBI mounted an undercover operation in a Manhattan hotel to catch Rodriguez, in which an agent posed as a Russian mobster who needed security in their communications. Rodriguez was filmed.
And in 2011, the FBI approached him in Bogotá with this video and offered to cooperate. Rodriguez accepted.
Remotely installed a GPS locator on Jorge Cifuentes’ phone that allowed the United States to catch him. And he helped the FBI get hold of hundreds of recordings, text messages, emails and videos that constitute overwhelming evidence against Chapo.
In 2012, when he learned by clandestinely listening to a telephone conversation that the Cifuentes had discovered was a snitch, he quickly moved to the United States, where he presumably obtained a new identity under the witness protection program.
At one point, the FBI asked him to return to Mexico to analyze in a real way the system of espionage installed by Chapo in about 50 telephones of his relatives, his lovers and his wife, to try to capture him.
Rodriguez was never charged or spent a single hour in jail, and he earned another half a million dollars working for the FBI. He even hopes to receive a reward from the State Department of up to five million dollars for his help in capturing Jorge Cifuentes.
“I have the hope and the illusion that I will receive them someday,” he said.
Jorge Cifuentes, a prisoner in the United States, has already testified against Chapo in his trial in federal court in Brooklyn. These days the testimony of his brother Alex, who also collaborates with the prosecution is expected.
El Chapo, 61, considered one of the biggest leaders of the Mexican cartel in Sinaloa and accused of trafficking more than 155 tons of cocaine to the United States, was extradited almost two years ago after two spectacular escapes from Mexican prisons.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.