(The Center Square) – The federal government sanctioned 13 Sinaloa Cartel members and four Mexico-based companies on Tuesday, essentially cutting them off from the U.S. financial system.
The Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for “a significant portion of the illicit fentanyl and other deadly drugs trafficked into the United States,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, known as OFAC.
Tuesday’s sanctions come months after the cartel reportedly told its members in June to stop the production and trafficking of illicit fentanyl in the face of growing pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies. The Wall Street Journal reported the order came from the “Chapitos,” the group led by the four sons of imprisoned boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The message was “stop or die,” the Journal reported. U.S. officials were skeptical about the cartel’s fentanyl ban.
“The United States will aggressively pursue all who are complicit operators and facilitators of these illicit fentanyl networks,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement. “Treasury will continue to use its authorities to expose and isolate those who profit from deadly fentanyl sales in the United States.”
Among the sanctioned Sinaloa Cartel members was Nogales, Sonora-based “plaza boss” Juan Carlos Morgan Huerta. OFAC said Morgan Huerta manages cartel operations in Nogales and oversees the trafficking of multi-ton quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and illicit fentanyl from Mexico into the United States.
OFAC said Morgan Huerta uses trucks to conceal and transport drugs across the border. In April 2021, Morgan Huerta was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on various drug trafficking charges linked to fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. He remains a fugitive.
Several adult members of Morgan Huerta’s family were also designated for sanctions on Tuesday, along with four businesses, including Nogales, Sonora-based restaurant, Conceptos Gastronomicos de Sonora and a mining company, Morgan Golden Mining, which is based in Hermosillo, Sonora.
OFAC designated the restaurant for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Morgan Huerta. OFAC designated the mining company for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Morgan Huerta and his brother, Jose Luis Morgan Huerta.
As a result of the designation, all property and interests of the named people that are in the U.S. must be blocked and reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more blocked persons also are blocked, according to the agency. Further, the designation cuts those people off from many financial services because anyone who helps a sanctioned person could face sanctions.