How drug lord used fancy tech to evade authorities

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, captured finally by a conventional wiretap, channeled quite some inner nerd to evade the law for years.

A little nerdy in this picture? World News/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

If, like me, you got many of your images of drug lords from "Weeds," you'll imagine that they're nasty pieces of work.

But not necessarily that they're nasty pieces of nerd.

However, after the capture of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, authorities have begun to realize how he managed to remain untouchable for 13 years.

As The Associated Press reports, investigators admitted that they were, well, impressed with the countersurveillance gadgets Guzman had at his disposal.

He reportedly enjoyed transmitter-detecting scanners that weren't exactly available on Amazon.

These allowed him to function socially and even have a large wedding with a beauty queen.

Naturally, authorities don't want to encourage other nefarious types by revealing the precise gadgets Guzman employed.

However, as with so many stories like this, this one had a quite prosaic end. Guzman was captured when one of his lieutenants made a basic error. It had to be his head of communications, didn't it?

A normal, almost boring Immigration and Customs Enforcement wiretap in Nogales, Ariz., picked up signals from BlackBerry BBMs and messages from other gadgets.

Authorities descended on a suspected hideout in Culiacan. There they found a cell phone. Yes, it seemed to belong to the head of communications. You'd think he might have remembered to take it, but then everyone is human in the end.

The discovery of that one phone led to contacts with a courier and then to Guzman himself.

One official told the AP that Guzman had traveled without any apparent fears for his safety and was even keen on moving into new brand extensions like the money markets.

As often happens with arrests of this magnitude, some have speculated as to whether the captured man is Guzman at all.

Many of the most nefarious use doubles in order to fool their pursuers. Moreover, many Mexicans don't exactly trust the word of their authorities.

So, as the Los Angeles Times reports, a forensic expert, Sara Monica Medina, appeared at a press conference to offer scientific evidence that Guzman was the man.

She produced handwriting samples, fingerprints, and DNA tests. She even showed images of Guzman with a Q-tip in his mouth, to prove that he had taken the tests.

Did this scientific display work? Well, the LA Times also reports that a survey by Strategic Cabinet showed that only 42.2 percent of Mexicans believe Guzman is in custody.

Are the rest on the fence? Not quite -- 40.7 percent still believe it's an impostor.

Indeed, if Guzman is as familiar with technology as it appears, there will always be that chance that he's au fait with teleportation.

El Chapo after his arrest. News and Politics/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
 

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