Man known as ‘Catboy’ is second Canadian suspected of working with drug lord El Chapo
|National Post 11 Jan 2019 at 06:02|
A drug trafficker known as “Cat” or “Catboy” is the second Canadian suspected of working with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, whose landmark Brooklyn trial is ongoing.
Stephen Tello, 39, a former real estate agent who has lived in Montreal, Toronto and Kitchener, Ont., is serving an 11-year, eight-month sentence in Canada following a Nova Scotia RCMP drugs sting codenamed Operation Harrington.
However, court documents show he also faces a separate cocaine importation indictment in the U.S., which accuses him of trafficking with the Mexican kingpin for more than five years, from October 2008 to January 2014.
After the arrest of Toronto-based Mykhaylo Koretskyy, 43, in Curacao in January 2018, Tello is now the second Canadian firmly tied to Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel which, even in its leader’s absence, runs enormous amounts of cocaine, meth and heroin into the U.S. and Canada.
What’s remarkable about Tello, and the wider Canadian case which saw him and others imprisoned, is the number of associated individuals who have since been murdered.
In August 2014, before he could be charged, the man who unwittingly introduced Tello to undercover RCMP officers was killed in White Rock, B.C.
In January 2015, a financier for Tello was shot dead in Alberta.
And, in November 2018, a man convicted in the same roundup was murdered in Montreal after serving his sentence.
In fact, court documents show RCMP had serious concerns for their own officers’ safety after the Harrington takedowns. During a preliminary court hearing, an unknown man was suspected, while sitting in court, of surreptitiously attempting to photograph an undercover RCMP officer known only as UCO Joe, who had led the case.
In the U.S., Tello, Koretskyy, Guzman and well-known Colombian gangster Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, or “Alex,” have been indicted together by the Southern District of New York.
Koretskyy is currently battling against extradition to the U.S. from the Caribbean. Cifuentes-Villa has already been sent to the U.S., having been apprehended in Mexico in 2014. A U.S. Department of Justice official said they had no comment on whether the U.S. would seek Tello’s extradition, or whether such discussions had taken place.
Koretskyy has hired the same lawyer as Guzman, Jeffrey Lichtman. Lichtman has not returned repeated requests for comment. Adam Boni, a Toronto lawyer who previously represented Tello, declined to comment on his former client’s indictment.
“El Chapo” Guzman, left, seen with Alex Cifuentes-Villa and an unidentified woman. Canadians Stephen Tello and Mykhaylo Koretskyy have been indicted in the U.S., suspected of working with Guzman and Cifuentes-Villa. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York
When Guzman was extradited from Mexico to the U.S. in January 2017, prosecutors proceeded on a 17-count indictment in the Eastern District of New York. It includes allegations of numerous counts of conspiracy to murder, drug trafficking on a major scale and $14 billion worth of ill-gained assets.
Among Guzman’s many other existing U.S. indictments, however, is the one that names the Canadians and Cifuentes-Villa. Exact details on how the four allegedly conspired are not provided, but they are named as a group in orders to unseal their individual indictments.
Like Koretskyy, Tello stands accused by the U.S. of conspiring with “others known and unknown … to violate the narcotics laws of the United States,” from about October 2008 to January 2014. The indictment was first unsealed in July 2015 but was not publicly disclosed during his Canadian trial, although RCMP suspected Sinaloa ties.
It says the Canadian distributed “five kilograms and more” of cocaine, “intending and knowing that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States,” and seeks a forfeiture of assets.