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At left, "El Mayito Gordo." At right, the DEA wanted poster for his father, "El Mayo" Zambada. At left, "El Mayito Gordo." At right, the DEA wanted poster for his father, "El Mayo" Zambada.

Oldest son of Sinaloa Cartel drug lord released from US prison

He's the third son to go to prison in the U.S. and another is on the run

The eldest son of a Sinaloa Cartel drug lord was released from U.S. prison on Thursday.

Ismael Zambada Imperial, also known by the moniker “El Mayito Gordo,” is the first son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, one of the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Zambada Imperial was imprisoned in a federal penitentiary in San Diego, California, after being extradited from Mexico in December 2019. In April 2021, he pleaded guilty to importing and distributing methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison on June 24. Thanks to time already served, only a little over one year remains on his sentence, which he will serve on conditional release. He was originally arrested in November 2014 in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Zambada Imperial will be put back behind bars if he’s found in possession of drugs and must undergo a drugs test within 15 days of his release, and two further tests thereafter. He will also have to participate in a domestic violence reeducation program.

El Mayito Gordo’s criminal activities are part of a family tradition. His brother, Ismael Zambada Sicairos, was indicted alongside him, as was the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar. Both men are fugitives.

Zambada Imperial is the third son of Zambada García to be imprisoned in the U.S. Vicente Zambada Niebla was arrested in Mexico in 2009 and extradited to the U.S. a year later. He was sentenced in May 2019 to 15 years in prison, but is no longer in the U.S. prison system and was likely released as a protected witness, the newspaper Milenio reported.

Serafín Zambada Ortiz was the second son to face U.S. prison. He was arrested in November 2013 after trying to cross into the U.S. on foot from Sonora. He was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and was released in September 2018.

U.S. officials increased their reward for information leading to the capture of Zambada García in September. The whereabouts of the former poppy field worker was deemed to be worth US $15 million.

With reports from Milenio

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