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US sanctions members of Mexican cartel La Nueva Familia Michoacana | WE

The United States Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned eight Mexican targets affiliated with the La Nueva Familia Michoacana drug cartel for trafficking fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States, as announced Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. , Thursday in Atlanta (Georgia). In addition to drug trafficking, La Nueva Familia Michoacana is responsible for the smuggling of migrants from Mexico to the United States, according to the Treasury. La Nueva Familia Michoacana is one of the most powerful and violent cartels in Mexico and has become a top priority of the Mexican government.

Historically, La Nueva Familia Michoacana trafficked primarily in methamphetamine. However, in recent years the company has expanded into fentanyl trafficking, obtaining the necessary precursor chemicals, purchasing essential pill presses, and then producing fentanyl throughout Mexico, including Mexico City, Pineda, Santa Teresa, Ciudad Altamirano, Tejupilco, Arcelia, Cuernavaca, Culiacán, Guadalajara and Toluca, Mexico, according to the Treasury, which acted in coordination with Mexican authorities.

La Nueva Familia Michoacana sends fentanyl and other drugs to the United States through Nuevo Laredo and Tamaulipas/Reynosa, along the southern Texas border, using buses, among other means of transportation. Once the drugs arrive in the United States, they are shipped to various cities across the country, including Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Tulsa, Chicago, and Charlotte.

In addition to drugs, the cartel also engages in illegal human trafficking. According to the Treasury, in exchange for money, members of La Nueva Familia Michoacana upload photos and videos in which people appear under interrogation or in danger of being murdered. Armed with these photos or videos, individuals falsely declare to US immigration authorities their alleged need to seek asylum in the United States.

Nueva Familia Michoacana is also known for forcing people into the United States illegally with drugs in order to sell them in the country. If they don't follow the order, the cartel threatens to kill them and their families. La Nueva Familia Michoacana also uses tobacco industry workers to smuggle narcotics into the United States.

Treasury sanctioned Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga and José Alfredo Hurtado Olascoaga, the two co-leaders of the cartel, in November 2022, and continued to target their allies. He has now sanctioned new members of the organization, including Rodolfo Maldonado Bustos, next in line of command. He controls the drug routes that pass from Ciudad Altamirano to the Zihuatanejo-Lázaro Cárdenas region. On April 23, 2017, a federal grand jury from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia presented an indictment against him on two counts of heroin trafficking conspiracy.

Josué Ramírez Carrera, the financial leader and next in line after Maldonado Bustos, who controls the laundering of drug money through second-hand clothing companies, is also sanctioned. He is also involved in arms trafficking, where he orders people throughout the Rio Grande Valley to hide weapons in packages of used clothing bound for Mexico City, according to the Treasury.

The sanctions also affect other cartel lieutenants and hitmen: Josué López Hernández, David Durán Álvarez, Kevin Arzate Gómez, Euclides Camacho Goicochea, Lucio Ochoa Lagunes and Uriel Tabares Martínez. The latter is a hitman who works directly for the co-leaders of the cartel and plays a leadership role in the Guerrero/Ciudad Altamirano region of Mexico. He is known as “The Doctor” for the violent and surgical manner in which he tortures and murders those who cross paths with high-ranking members of the La Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel.

The sanctions involve freezing all assets of targeted individuals and a veto of U.S. and U.S.-based transactions with sanctioned individuals. These sanctions make money laundering a little more difficult, but because they involve organizations operating outside the law, they are of limited effectiveness in curbing their activity.

As of 2019, Mexican cartels have been the primary illicit suppliers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the United States. They purchase precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment from suppliers based in China and, through intermediaries, acquire chemicals to synthesize illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in clandestine laboratories in Mexico. They then traffic these highly addictive and deadly drugs, primarily across the southwest border of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2023, and more than 74,000 of those deaths were linked to synthetic opioids, primarily illegally manufactured fentanyl.

“The opioid crisis, and particularly the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, has devastated communities and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. President Biden and I are committed to using every tool at our disposal to target illicit fentanyl and its precursor chemicals so we can disrupt these deadly supply chains,” Secretary Yellen said in a statement released Thursday. “Treasury has unique capabilities and expertise to target the financial flows of these cartels that are poisoning our communities, and prosecuting them is a top priority for me and the Department. »

Red flags for banks

Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also issued a 15-page supplemental advisory to help banks spot red flags that may be indicators of activity related to the acquisition of precursor chemicals and equipment manufacturing processes used to synthesize fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. The Treasury has identified certain patterns that repeat themselves in operations and called on banks to monitor this type of activity.

The advisory lists 14 different warning signs, regarding transaction counterparty, transaction volume, payment methods and use of virtual currencies. The advisory states: “As no single red flag can determine illicit or suspicious activity, financial institutions should consider surrounding facts and circumstances, such as a customer's historical financial activity, whether the transactions are consistent with current business practices and whether the customer exhibits multiple red flags, before determining whether any behavior or transaction is suspicious or otherwise indicative of an illicit purchase of fentanyl precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment or is otherwise suspect.

The idea is to help U.S. banks and other financial institutions protect themselves against activities related to the illicit fentanyl supply chain. Financial institutions reporting suspected financial transactions related to illicit fentanyl and narcotics trafficking play a critical role in law enforcement investigations and Treasury's global sanctions efforts.

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