Treasury Department sanctions eight cartel members

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations , along with its law enforcement partners from the DEA, FBI, CBP, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Scottsdale Police Department, worked with the Government of Mexico to bring Mexican federal police officers into the United States in order to allow them to more safely execute their law enforcement operation in Mexico. The operation, dubbed Mexican Operation Diablo Express, targeted high level members of the Sinaloa cartel who operate in and around Sonoyta, Sonora Mexico and the U.S. border. Courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

(The Center Square) – Sanctions were imposed on eight Mexican cartel affiliates Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said.

The targets are all connected to the La Nueva Michoacana cartel, a virulent trafficker of cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and migrants. 

Along with the sanctions, the Treasury Department released an advisory that emphasizes crucial new details to assist U.S. banks and other financial institutions in safeguarding against activities linked to the illegal fentanyl supply chain. 

“The advisory includes new trends and red flags that can be indicators of activity associated with the procurement of precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment used for the synthesis of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,” according to the Treasury Department news release. 

From May 2020 to December 2023, fentanyl deaths increased by 27%, from 82,916 to 105,227, according to the CDC.

According to the Treasury Department, more than 250 targets have been sanctioned for involvement in drug trafficking activities along the supply chain, including cartel leaders, transportation networks, labs, and chemical suppliers.

Individuals sanctioned include: 

  • Rodolfo Maldonado Bustos: Trusted member and next-in-line to the co-leaders; controls drug routes from Ciudad Altamirano to Zihuatanejo-Lazaro Cardenas, Guerrero.
  • Josue Ramirez Carrera: Financial leader and third-in-line in leadership; launders drug money through a used clothing business; involved in arms trafficking.
  • Josue Lopez Hernandez: Key lieutenant with significant regional connections with other cartels such as CJNG.
  • David Duran Alvarez: Key lieutenant known for sending various drugs to Houston, Texas.
  • Uriel Tabares Martinez: Sicario working directly for the co-leaders; has a leadership role in the Guerrero/Ciudad Altamirano region; known as “El Medico” for his violent methods.
  • Kevin Arzate Gomez: Key lieutenant with contacts along the Mexico/United States border; negotiates drug entry into the U.S. and assists in returning the proceeds to Mexico.
  • Euclides Camacho Goicochea: Works closely with Rodolfo Maldonado Bustos and Uriel Tabares Martinez; moves significant amounts of methamphetamine to Houston and Atlanta.
  • Lucio Ochoa Lagunes: Key lieutenant working directly for Jose Hurtado Olascoaga; leader of a sub-plaza in Tlapehuala, Guerrero, Mexico.

Mexico’s previous president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took a hands-off approach to the cartels, submitting to their might over the federal government. His official policy was “Hugs, not bullets.” 

The recently elected president, Claudia Sheinbaum, is a protege of Obrador and many worry that her approach to combating the cartels will be no different. 

Since 2018, the cartels have become far more dangerous and their revenues more diversified, making the challenge to Sheinbaum ever more daunting, assuming she even intends to take on the cartels.

The cartels have become increasingly merciless in their drug and migrant smuggling, even forcing people to traffic narcotics into the US. 

“If the individuals do not comply… they are informed that they and their families will be killed,” the Department said. 

In addition to violence and threats, creativity has become emblematic among the various cartels.

“La Nueva Familia Michoacana members stage photos and videos in which individuals appear under interrogation or at risk of being murdered,” the Department said. “With these photos or videos in hand, the individuals will then falsely claim to United States immigration officials their purported need to seek asylum in the United States.”

Likewise, tunnels have been found underneath the U.S. border and armed drones have been used to target Mexican officials. 

By Nolan Mckendry | The Center Square contributor

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