Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia is featured on Netflix’s World’s Most Wanted docu-series, which dropped on the platform on August 5. The show explores five of the world’s most notorious criminal fugitives and 72-year old Zambada, believed to be a drug lord and the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, is one of them.
Zambada has been indicted by the U.S. government and charged with large-scale drug smuggling and distributing in the U.S. He’s also believed to be behind some bloody wars in Mexico over cartel territory in the past decades and both the U.S. and Mexico have issued rewards for information leading to his capture. Although the episode focuses on Zambada, many members of his family are also involved in drug trafficking and his son is the infamous drug lord Vicente Zambada Niebla.
Zambada Niebla Was Arrested in Mexico & Extradited to the U.S. Where He Was Sentenced to Prison
Zambada Niebla was born on March 24, 1975, and is sometimes known by his nickname, “El Vicentillo.” His surname follows Mexican customs and is composed of his father’s surname followed by his mother’s surname. Before his arrest, Zambada Niebla was well known for his partying and flashy lifestyle and he was caught on recording discussing drug shipments, explosives and possible attacks against Mexican law enforcement.
In March 2009, the Mexican authorities captured and arrested Zambada Niebla, who was believed to be the security and operations chief of the Sinaloa cartel. After the arrest, one Mexican official said, “This significantly affects the organization’s ability to operate and distribute drugs.” According to officials, Zambada Niebla was surprised by the arrest and he was taken into custody without any shots fired.
In addition to being wanted in Mexico, Zambada Niebla was also wanted in the U.S. following a 2003 drug trafficking indictment which accused Zambada Niebla and his father of moving almost $50 million dollars’ worth of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. in 2001 and 2002. One year after his arrest in Mexico, he was extradited to Chicago to face charges in the U.S.
Zambada Niebla Testified Against His Cartel for a Reduced Prison Sentence
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Zambada Niebla pleaded guilty in secret in 2013 and began cooperating with the authorities. In 2019, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison but could be eligible for release in a couple of years due to credit given for his time served. According to U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, Zambada Niebla was extremely cooperative and gave key information that helped in the arrest of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
When Zambada Niebla is eventually released, he will most likely enter a witness protection program. Before his sentencing, Zambada Niebla told the court he was sorry for his role in the cartel and he “made some bad decisions.” He said he had been repentant about his lifestyle for years, not “just today because I am in front of you to receive my sentence. I would like to tell you that this feeling of regret and repentance has been with me for years.”
Since his guilty plea, he has been held in an undisclosed location and his whereabouts are not available on public government websites. In an interview with the Guardian, Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz, El Chapo’s daughter, said that she and Zambada Niebla had married according to their family’s wishes and had two kids together, although they later separated.