West Kendall chef worked for Sinaloa cartel

Federal investigators say that a West Kendall chef led a double life working for the Sinaloa drug cartel.

07/04/2014 7:34 PM

07/05/2014 12:23 PM

Until recently, a Mexican national lived in a two-story single-family home in the Forest Lakes Gardens subdivision of West Kendall.

According to public records, Pedro Delgado Sánchez, 47, was a chef who, along with his wife, owned a Mexican food company called El Rinconcito Mexican Catering.

But federal investigators say that Delgado Sánchez was leading a double life. They say he was working as a covert agent linked to the Sinaloa cartel, a powerful Mexican drug-trafficking organization led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, who was arrested in February in Mazatlán — a resort on the Pacific coast of Sinaloa state.

Federal court papers indicate that Delgado Sánchez helped coordinate deliveries of significant amounts of cocaine between Tucson, Arizona, and Detroit. Known by his nickname, “Viejo,” or old man, Delgado Sánchez served as the “controller’’ for Leo Sharp, a 90-year-old man described by federal investigators as one of the oldest and most efficient drug couriers serving the cartel.

When an El Nuevo Herald photographer and reporter visited Delgado Sánchez’s West Kendall home last week, a woman appeared at the door but declined to comment.

Delgado Sánchez’s attorney, Martin E. Crandall, described his client as a “talented and hard-working immigrant” caught in the activities of others of which he was initially not aware. He said Delgado Sánchez was arrested as a result of phone conversations U.S. investigators intercepted between him and other defendants implicating them in drug-trafficking.

Delgado Sánchez has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and has been sentenced to 84 months in federal penitentiary and five years of supervised release.

“He wanted to put this behind him, so he could move on with his life,” said Crandall, who said that descriptions of his client as a top-level Sinaloa cartel member are erroneous.

Delgado Sánchez’s role in the case emerged after Sharp was arrested, prosecuted and convicted in Detroit. Sharp’s conviction drew national attention, but Delgado Sánchez’s role has been largely overlooked.

A profile published in June in New York Times Magazine noted that Delgado Sánchez was reportedly the drug delivery coordinator for Sharp. The Times reported that investigators linked Delgado Sánchez to Ramón Ramos, ostensibly a bookkeeper for the trafficking group, which was allegedly part of the Sinaloa cartel. Ramos cooperated with the DEA in unraveling the case, according to the Times.

When investigators searched Sharp’s truck after police pulled him over on I-94 near Kalamazoo, Michigan, in October 2011, the Times reported, they found a scrap of paper with a Miami phone number, and traced the number to Delgado Sánchez.

Federal agents arrested Delgado Sánchez in 2012 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during one of his frequent trips out of South Florida to coordinate drug shipments from Arizona to Detroit, according to Jeff Moore, a DEA Special Agent who investigated the case. Delgado Sánchez was one of 18 individuals indicted on drug charges by the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit in 2012.

The statement included Delgado Sánchez’s name along with those of José Roberto Lucero-Bustamante and Armando Dias-Lucero, identified as leaders of “a drug-trafficking organization responsible for the shipment and distribution of cocaine on a regular basis from Mexico to Michigan.” The statement said the organization was “a part of the Joaquin Guzmán Loera a/k/a ‘Chapo’ Guzmán Sinaloa cartel based in Sinaloa, Mexico.” The statement went on to say that the Michigan group distributed between 100 and 300 kilograms of cocaine per month in the Detroit metropolitan area between 2008 and 2011.

Delgado Sánchez’s alleged connection to the Sinaloa cartel was not detailed in the U.S. attorney’s office statement. But a court transcript of the arraignment of another defendant, Octavio Humberto Gamez, revealed Delgado Sánchez’s alleged role in the organization.

Eric Doeh, a federal prosecutor in the case, said in court on Feb. 29, 2012, that Gamez served as a “lieutenant’’ in the organization and that Delgado Sánchez led a “cell” in the group.

“Mr. Gamez, along with Mr. Delgado-Sánchez, have coordinated a number of shipments,” Doeh said in court. “One shipment in particular that the government can account for is the 104 kilograms of cocaine that was shipped here coordinated by Mr. Gamez and Mr. [Delgado] Sánchez in October 2011. The courier for that shipment was Mr. Leo Sharp.”

Doeh said federal investigators had taped a telephone conversation between Gamez and Sánchez coordinating Sharp’s mission.

Moore, the DEA Special Agent who investigated the case, said Gamez and Sánchez were relatives and that Sánchez was the one who gave Sharp his delivery assignments.

“He is a top-level guy,” Moore said of Delgado Sánchez. “His role was as domestic supervisor.”

However, Delgado Sánchez’s attorney disputed Moore’s description of his client.

“He is a talented, hard-working immigrant who, unfortunately, got tied up in this matter because of some very intense electronic surveillance by the United States government,” Crandall said. “Further, he was no cartel agent as has been suggested. Rather, he was talking to people he knew, who probably had connections that he was not aware of.”

Little of Delgado’s background is known, but some details emerged in court files.

Delgado was born in Mexico on March 4, 1967, according to immigration records given to the court. Decades later, he moved to the United States and became a permanent resident on March 25, 2008, the records show. Whether he obtained his green card because of his wife, a U.S. citizen, is not known. His Honduran-born wife, Adella Deras, 42, became a naturalized citizen in Los Angeles, California, in 1999, immigration records show. They have two children.

Moore said Delgado was involved in a Mexican food business in California before he moved to West Kendall. In South Florida, Court papers show the couple, who have been living in the West Kendall home since 2001, incorporated El Rinconcito Mexican Catering in 2008. Moore said he was not sure whether the Florida business was a “front.” In court papers, Delgado’s attorney indicated the business was legitimate.

As proof of Delgado’s interest in culinary arts, his lawyer filed in court his client’s 2008 diploma for completing a program at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami.

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