Ismael Zambada-Imperial
Ismael Zambada-Imperial known as “Mayito Gordo.” Courtesy DEA

The son of the reputed head of the Sinaloa Cartel pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Friday to conspiracy charges for his role in the cartel’s drug trafficking empire.

Ismael Zambada-Imperial, 35, known as “Mayito Gordo,” also agreed to forfeit $5 million in drug trafficking proceeds as part of his plea to all charges in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Zambada-Imperial’s plea included admissions to organizing the transportation and distribution of thousands of pounds of drugs from Mexico into the U.S., as well as “directing acts of violence for the purpose of promoting the Sinaloa Cartel’s narcotics trafficking activities,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Also named in the indictment were his father, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, aka “El Mayo”; one of Zambada-Garcia’s other sons, Ismael Zambada-Sicairos, aka “Mayito Flaco”; and Ivan Archivaldo Guzman-Salazar, aka “Chapito,” the son of the cartel’s infamous former leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

Zambada-Garcia, Zambada-Sicairos and Guzman-Salazar remain at large.

Prosecutors say the case began in 2011 with what was initially believed to be a small-scale distribution cell based in National City and Chula Vista, but it was later revealed the drugs were being supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel. Along with charges against more than 125 people, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says the ensuing investigation resulted in the seizures of more than 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly, 5000 pounds of cocaine, 17.2 tons of marijuana, 211 pounds of heroin, and nearly $27.9 million in narcotics proceeds.

Zambada-Imperial, who was extradited to the U.S. in 2019, is slated to be sentenced next April 29 and faces between 10 years and life in prison.