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Washington D.C.
Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Treasury Targets Sinaloa Cartel Fentanyl Trafficking Operations and a Colombian Cartel Leader

OFAC designated nine Mexico-based individuals responsible for fentanyl and other illicit drug trafficking on behalf of Los Chapitos and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned 10 individuals, including several Sinaloa Cartel affiliates and fugitives, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059. Those sanctioned today operate under the Los Chapitos faction of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. Responsible for a significant portion of the illicit fentanyl and other deadly drugs trafficked into the United States, the Sinaloa Cartel is one of the world’s most damaging transnational criminal organizations. Additionally, OFAC sanctioned the leader of the Clan del Golfo, one of Colombia’s largest criminal enterprises that controls most of the country’s cocaine cultivation, production, and transportation routes.

“Treasury prioritizes the disruption of illicit fentanyl trafficking as part of the whole-of-government effort to address the opioid public health crisis plaguing the United States,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Today’s actions show that Treasury and the Administration will continue to relentlessly target the criminal enterprises threatening international security and flooding our communities with fentanyl and other deadly drugs.”

OFAC’s actions are the result of ongoing collaboration with U.S. government partners, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), notably the Rocky Mountain Division. Additionally, today’s Mexico-based actions were coordinated closely with the Government of Mexico’s La Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit). Today’s Colombia action coincides with the meeting of the United States – Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group in Bogota, Colombia.

TARGETING SINALOA CARTEL FENTANYL TRAFFICKING IN MEXICO

Today, OFAC designated nine Mexico-based individuals responsible for fentanyl and other illicit drug trafficking on behalf of Los Chapitos and the Sinaloa Cartel. In April 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) indicted seven of the nine individuals, across three separate indictments on a range of charges to include fentanyl trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering. Moreover, in April 2023, the U.S. Department of State issued offers pursuant to the Narcotics Reward Program for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Jorge Humberto Figueroa BenitezLeobardo Garcia CorralesMartin Garcia CorralesLiborio Nunez AguirreSamuel Leon AlvaradoCarlos Mario Limon Vazquez, and Mario Alberto Jimenez Castro.

Jorge Humberto Figueroa Benitez is a Mexico-based leader within the Chapitos’ security apparatus who oversees personal security operations for certain Sinaloa Cartel members and coordinates illicit fentanyl manufacturing and trafficking activities. Specifically, he commands a violent group of security personnel (sicarios) for the Chapitos.

Brothers Leobardo Garcia Corrales and Martin Garcia Corrales, both Mexican nationals and associates of the Chapitos, are large-scale methamphetamine and fentanyl manufacturers in Sinaloa, Mexico. The brothers negotiate the sale of illicit fentanyl in the United States and operate fentanyl labs in Oaxaca, Mexico. They use the proceeds from fentanyl sales to purchase automatic rifles, grenades, and other weapons. Both are known associates of Joaquin Archivaldo “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel that OFAC has previously designated.

Liborio Nunez AguirreSamuel Leon Alvarado, and Carlos Mario Limon Vazquez are fentanyl traffickers for the Sinaloa Cartel responsible for the movement of large quantities of illicit fentanyl into the United States. All three are associates of Los Chapitos and operate a wide network of Sinaloa Cartel fentanyl labs that synthesize precursor chemicals into illicit fentanyl for distribution in the United States.

Mario Alberto Jimenez Castro (Jimenez Castro) reports directly to a Chapitos deputy and operates a money laundering organization that uses virtual currency and wire transfers, among other methods, to transfer proceeds from illicit fentanyl sales in the United States to Sinaloa Cartel leaders in Mexico. Jimenez Castro has directed U.S.-based couriers to pick up cash in the United States and deposit it into various virtual currency wallets for payment directly to the Chapitos and for reinvestment in fentanyl production.

In addition to the seven indicted individuals named above, today OFAC designated two associates of Jimenez Castro, Julio Cesar Dominguez Hernandez (Dominguez Hernandez) and Jesus Miguel Vibanco Garcia (Vibanco Garcia). Dominguez Hernandez reports directly to a Chapitos deputy and works with Jimenez Castro to import, distribute, and sell cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States. Additionally, Dominguez Hernandez is responsible for directing U.S.-based third parties to pick up bulk quantities of cash and transfer it outside of the United States where it is used to purchase drugs. Mexico-based Vibanco Garcia, Jimenez Castro’s brother-in-law, is a fentanyl supplier associated with the Chapitos. Vibanco Garcia is responsible for importation and distribution of fentanyl from Mexico to the United States.  Additionally, he often travels to Vancouver, Canada — a strategic position for the Sinaloa Cartel — where he coordinates fentanyl distribution operations.

Jorge Humberto Figueroa Benitez, Leobardo Garcia Corrales, Martin Garcia Corrales, Liborio Nunez Aguirre, Samuel Leon Alvarado, Carlos Mario Limon Vazquez, Jimenez Castro, Dominguez Hernandez, and Vibanco Garcia were designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.

TARGETING COCAINE TRAFFICKING IN COLOMBIA WITH TIES TO SINALOA CARTEL

Also today, OFAC designated Colombian national Jobanis de Jesus Avila Villadiego (Avila Villadiego), also known as “Chiquito Malo,” the current leader of the Clan del Golfo, which supplies cocaine to major drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel. In May 2022, following the announcement that the former leader of the Clan del Golfo would be extradited to the United States, Avila Villadiego declared an “armed strike” which sparked violence throughout Colombia. In response, Colombian authorities announced a reward of approximately $1.2 million for information to help locate and capture Avila Villadiego. In July 2022, Avila Villadiego purportedly ordered the launch of a murder campaign targeting Colombian security forces. Avila Villadiego is indicted in two U.S. District Courts. In June 2022, a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida returned an indictment charging Avila Villadiego with cocaine trafficking. In August 2015, a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York returned an indictment charging Avila Villadiego, among others, with being engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise; charges included participating in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy and conspiring to murder rival drug traffickers.

Avila Villadiego was designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

Today’s action is part of a whole-of-government effort to counter the global threat posed by the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States that is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses. In July 2023, 85 countries and 13 international organizations convened virtually to launch a Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats.

Treasury’s action demonstrates the Administration’s strengthened approach to saving lives by disrupting the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and its precursors into American communities. OFAC, in coordination with its U.S. Government partners and foreign counterparts, will continue to target and pursue accountability for foreign illicit drug actors.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897For detailed information on the process to submit a request for removal from an OFAC sanctions list, please click here.

Click here for more information on the individuals designated today.

Read more at the Treasury Department

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Homeland Security Today
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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Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
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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