A judge in Tucson on Monday ordered the son of a leading Sinaloa Cartel figure to be transferred to California “as soon as practical” to face drug-trafficking charges.
Serafin Zambada-Ortiz, the 23-year-old U.S.-born son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, was arrested last Wednesday at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales as he tried to enter the country with his wife. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said on Friday that it would seek his removal from Arizona to California, where he faces federal charges.
On Monday, Serafin Zambada's defense attorney, Nogales-based Saji Vettiyil, waived his client's right to a hearing in Tucson in favor of holding the proceedings at U.S. District Court in San Diego.
If the defense had requested the hearings be held in Tucson, prosecutors likely would have appealed it on jurisdictional grounds, Vettiyil said after Monday morning's hearing in front of Judge D. Thomas Ferraro.
Although he could not say for sure, Vettiyil said he expected the transfer to take place by the end of the week or early next week.
Zambada only comments to the judge on Monday consisted of short yes-and-no answers. As he exited the courtroom, he made the shape of a heart with his hands for the benefit of two unidentified women in the back of the gallery.
His father Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is believed to be a top lieutenant to Sinaloa Cartel capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted man. El Mayo is a highly sought-after fugitive in his own right, and U.S. authorities have offered rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Serafin Zambada was indicted in September by a federal grand jury in San Diego on charges that he conspired to bring at least 500 grams of methamphetamine and 5 kilograms of cocaine to the United States.