For the first time since he began hunting one of the world’s most notorious drug lords, the man who helped make the second capture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in 2014, is revealing his identity and telling his story.
Former Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Andrew Hogan appeared on the "Today" show Wednesday to talk about the intricate tactics he used to track down Guzman, who headed the Sinaloa Cartel that authorities say supplied most of the methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana that entered the U.S.
Guzman rose through the Sinaloa ranks in the 1980s and was first arrested in 1993. He made his first escape in 2001, from a Mexican maximum-security prison, by hiding in a laundry cart. It would take 13 years for U.S. and Mexican officials to catch up with him again. After a second escape and infamous interview with actor Sean Penn in 2015, Guzman was finally caught in 2016 and extradited to the U.S., where he is awaiting trial in New York City and facing 17 counts that include money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and murder.
During those 13 years Guzman was on the run, Hogan infiltrated his cartel in 2010 and tracked the phones of his closest associates. Hogan read their text messages, he said, “every single one of them.”
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He even moved to Mexico City to zero in on Guzman.
“It was in the details,” Hogan told Savannah Guthrie about following the electronic trail to Guzman. He and his team began intercepting members of Guzman’s inner circle to “dismantle layers” until they reached the top. When they got to Guzman’s personal secretary, they located the kingpin and moved in.
In 2014, Hogan and other members of U.S. and Mexican law enforcement followed the surveillance to the resort town of Mazatlan. Despite Guzman being a billionaire drug lord, they found him living at the Miramar condominiums, a way of life that surprised Hogan.
“He almost afforded himself no luxury,” Hogan explained. "Same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”
As agents entered the Miramar, Hogan stayed outside guarding the perimeter, fearing Guzman would try to escape those closing in. Then, he heard a call come over the radio: “They got him.”
Hogan, wearing a black baseball cap “souvenir” he snagged from Guzman’s own closet, “ran right up to him,” he said.
Hogan came face-to-face with the man he had been hunting for seven years. He explained what he did next: “Jumped into his face and said the first thing that came to my head. I screamed: ‘What’s up, Chapo?’”
“Our eyes locked there for a second, and they threw him into the back of my car," he added.
Video was taken of the agents after Guzman's capture, and Hogan and others can be heard celebrating and yelling, “Yeah, baby.”
But Hogan and his teammates had no time to revel in their victory. Less than two years after entering a Mexican prison, Guzman was on the run again, having escaped through underground tunnels.
“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said.
Nevertheless, in 2016, Guzman was captured for a third time and sent to America to face justice.
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“Immediately after the capture, I knew that I was gonna tell this story, one way or the other,” he said, explaining that he laid it all out in his new book, "Hunting El Chapo," which Sony will soon turn into a major movie.
While “the dangers are certainly real,” Hogan said, he is not afraid to “embrace” his role in the capture of one of the most elusive criminals and share the story of a seemingly impossible feat.
“It was time to step up and be proud of what I had done and what my teammates had accomplished," Hogan added. "This story goes beyond just the one man. It’s about two countries coming together and accomplishing something that most thought was impossible.”
Hogan's full interview with "Dateline" airs Sunday on NBC.