How Sean Penn’s Interview Led Police to El Chapo

Authorities monitored actor’s movements ahead of his meeting with criminal overlord

Sean Penn claimed in his Rolling Stone article that he took extraordinary precautions leading up to his secret in-person interview with fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo. But Penn wasn’t able to keep the federales off his tail.

An anonymous Mexican law enforcement official told the Associated Press that authorities were able to locate El Chapo because of his meeting with Penn. They later initiated a raid in the area where Penn and El Chapo met, but El Chapo was able to escape. Law enforcement lost track of the criminal kingpin, but apprehended him on Friday, six months after El Chapo’s dramatic escape from prison.

Penn sat down with El Chapo for Rolling Stone for seven hours in October. The drug kingpin later answered additional questions that were sent to him via BlackBerry Messenger, also known as BBM. Rolling Stone published the story on Saturday night with Penn explaining that he met with El Chapo while the drug lord was a fugitive from justice.

In the account, El Chapo revealed the full details of his drug operation, as well as his escape from prison last summer.

Mexican attorney general Arely Gomez said Friday that “discovering Guzman’s intention to have a biographic film made” was important to the cartel king’s capture. “He contacted actresses and producers, which was part of one line of investigation.”

Mexican actress Kate del Castillo helped arrange the interview between Penn and El Chapo. A Mexican government official revealed to Agence France-Presse that authorities “had knowledge of this meeting” and said that knowledge helped make the capture of El Chapo possible.

In Penn’s article, he wrote that El Chapo wanted del Catillo’s assistance in adapting his personal story for a movie.

Two unnamed Mexican government sources told Reuters that authorities had monitored Penn’s movements ahead of his meeting with El Chapo, and that helicopter gunships were used in the initial raid after the meeting that failed to capture the notorious criminal mastermind.

El Chapo disappeared from Mexico’s highest security prison last summer, escaping via a mile-long tunnel that some said cost $1 million to build. Penn wrote in the article that the drug lord hired German engineers to build the tunnel.

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