(DOJ photo)

Departments Join Forces to Target and Dismantle Powerful Mexican Cartel

The departments of Justice, Treasury, and State have announced a series of measures to target and dismantle Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), one of the largest, most dangerous drug cartels currently operating in Mexico. These measures include the unsealing of 15 indictments, the State Department’s approval of large rewards, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designations, and the establishment of a citizen tip line.

CJNG is one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico and the Department of Justice considers it to be one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world, responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that CJNG is considered to be one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations on the face of the Earth.

“We believe that they traffic at least five tons of cocaine and five tons of methamphetamine into the United States every month,” he said. “We also believe that they are responsible for operating more than 100 methamphetamine labs in Mexico. Such organizations must be confronted and defeated.”

Founded in 2011, CJNG has grown in size and strength rapidly since its inception. Today, the DEA estimates the CJNG exerts influence in 23 of 31 (75 percent) of Mexican states, including key drug production and transportation corridors. CJNG is a powerful drug cartel in Mexico as a result of the organization’s disciplined command and control, sophisticated money laundering techniques, efficient drug transportation routes, and extreme violence. The cartel has also expanded globally, with significant presence and illicit business not only throughout the United States and Mexico, but also Europe, Asia, and Australia.

HSToday recently reported that organized crime and terrorism are becoming increasingly linked, and efforts are underway to close these channels, particularly regarding funding.

The Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California, the Northern District of Illinois, the Southern District of Mississippi, and the Eastern District of Virginia announced a number of indictments, some recently unsealed, against the following CJNG leaders, financiers, transporters, and sources of drug supply:

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, aka “Mencho”: Oseguera Cervantes, 52, is the lead defendant in a three-count superseding indictment returned in the District of Columbia in 2017 alleging that he is the leader of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, conspired to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States, and has used a firearm during and in relation to these drug trafficking crimes. In addition to the indictment in the District of Columbia, Oseguera Cervantes has also been charged with drug trafficking offenses in the Southern District of Mississippi (SDMS). He is currently a fugitive and was designated as a “Kingpin” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by the Department of the Treasury in April 2015.

Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, aka, “Menchito”: Oseguera Gonzalez, 28, Oseguera Cervantes’ son, served as the CJNG’s second in command until the time of his arrest by Mexican authorities in June 2015. Oseguera Gonzalez is charged in a two-count indictment returned in the District of Columbia in 2017 alleging that between 2007 and February 2017, Oseguera Gonzalez engaged a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States and that Oseguera Gonzalez engaged in the use of a firearm during and in relation to one or more drug trafficking crimes. Oseguera Gonzalez remains in Mexican custody and is currently pending extradition to the United States.

Abigael Gonzalez Valencia: Gonzalez Valencia, 45, the head of the “Cuinis” organization, is charged in a three-count indictment returned in the District of Columbia in 2014 alleging that he was a leader in a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, conspired to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States, and used a firearm during and in relation to one or more drug trafficking crimes. The CJNG has flourished in significant part because of its close affiliation with the Cuinis organization, which is the primary financial support network of the CJNG drug trafficking efforts. The Cuinis organization is composed of multiple members of the Gonzalez Valencia family. The relationship between the Cuinis organization and the CJNG is cemented through both intertwined drug trafficking and money laundering dealings as well as familial relationships, including the marriage of one member of the Gonzalez Valencia family to CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes. Gonzalez Valencia was designated as a “Kingpin” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by the Department of the Treasury in April 2015. Gonzalez Valencia was arrested by Mexican authorities in February 2015 pursuant to his charges in the United States and is awaiting extradition.

Jesus Contreras Arceo, aka “Canasto”: Contreras Arceo, 41, is charged in a two-count indictment returned in the Eastern District of Virginia in 2017 alleging that between 2011 until March 2017, Contreras Arceo engaged in a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States and that Contreras Arceo engaged in a conspiracy to commit money laundering. Contreras Arceo was arrested by Mexican authorities in July 2018 pursuant to his charges in the United States and is awaiting extradition.

Erick Valencia Salazar, aka “El 85”:  Valencia Salazar, 41, is charged in a one-count indictment returned in the District of Columbia in 2018 alleging that between 2003 until August 2018, Valencia Salazar engaged in a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States.  Valencia Salazar is currently a fugitive and is believed to be in Mexico.

Juan Perez-Vargas, aka, “Piolin”: Perez-Vargas, 37, is charged in a two-count indictment returned in the Southern District of California in 2017 alleging that Perez-Vargas engaged in a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States. Perez-Vargas was arrested by Mexican authorities in September 2017 pursuant to his charges in the United States and is awaiting extradition.

Diego Pineda Sanchez, aka “Botas” and Carlos Parra-Pedroza: Pineda Sanchez, 33, and Parra-Pedroza, 35, are charged with 28 others in a 63-count indictment returned in the Northern District of Illinois in 2015, alleging that between 2011 and September 2014, Pineda Sanchez and Parra-Pedroza led a Mexico-based conspiracy to launder more than $100 million in narcotics proceeds belonging to Mexico-based drug traffickers, through the purchase and resale of gold. The evidence in the case established that Pineda Sanchez and Parra-Pedroza laundered most of these narcotics proceeds on behalf of CJNG and its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes aka “Mencho.” Pineda Sanchez and Parra-Pedroza have pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy charges, and are facing a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. On Oct. 5, Pineda Sanchez was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison by the U.S. District Court in Chicago. The Court will set a sentencing date for Parra-Pedroza at a status hearing on Nov. 1. All other charged and arrested members of the conspiracy have pleaded guilty and have either been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.

Seven further individuals linked to the CJNG have also been indicted as a result of the coordinated efforts against the cartel. A full list can be found at The Justice Department.

Since April 2015, OFAC has announced nine designation actions totaling 63 separate individuals and entities in Mexico tied to the CJNG and the Cuinis organization. In the initial 2015 designation action, both Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes and Abigael Gonzalez Valencia were designated by OFAC as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. These Kingpin Act designation actions targeting the CJNG and the Cuinis organization are among the most aggressive and targeted in OFAC’s history against Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Based upon this series of OFAC designations, Mexican authorities were able to seize the Hotelito Desconocido, an exclusive boutique hotel on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which was controlled by members of Los Cuinis organization. OFAC designations have allowed U.S. and Mexican government officials to follow the money of the CJNG and the Cuinis organization in an effort to disrupt their money laundering activities.

As part of continuing efforts to cripple the operations of the CJNG, the U.S. Department of State has previously issued a number of rewards through the Narcotics Rewards Program for information leading to the arrest of critical CJNG operatives. Previously, the Department of State issued rewards through the Narcotics Rewards Program for up to the amount of $5 million for information leading to the arrests of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, Abigael Gonzalez Valencia, and Jose Gonzalez Valencia. Effective immediately, the Department of State is announcing an increase to the Narcotics Rewards Program reward for information leading to the arrest of the leader of the CJNG, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes aka, “Mencho.” Now $10 million, the reward is one of the largest ever approved for the Narcotics Rewards Program. Additionally, the Department of State is announcing a Narcotics Rewards Program reward for information leading to the arrest of high ranking CJNG member Erick Valencia Salazar, aka “El 85,” in the amount of $5 million.

Sessions confirmed that more investigations are ongoing and he expects that there will be many more indictments of CJNG members and their affiliates in the future. “They are in our crosshairs,” he said. “This cartel is a top priority.”

“Every single day the cartels cross our borders, disrespect our sovereignty, and deal poison and death to Americans all across our country. They steal our prosperity, our safety – and destroy tens of thousands of American careers, families, and lives. They are relentless. They will not let up until they are stopped,” he said.

“But we intend to stop them. We are targeting them and will use every legal tool in our arsenal. Our team has new energy, new focus, and resolute determination.”

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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