Son of "El Chapo" and Sinaloa cartel members hit with U.S. sanctions over fentanyl trafficking
A son of notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and three other members of the Sinaloa cartel have been sanctioned by the U.S. government, officials announced Tuesday.
Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 36, is one of El Chapo's 12 children and the fourth member of Los Chapitos, the nickname given to the sons of El Chapo who allegedly run a powerful faction of his drug empire.
On Tuesday, he was marked as "designated" by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). A person or entity listed as "designated" has their assets blocked, and U.S. persons are "generally prohibited from dealing with them," OFAC says. People who deal with them may face sanctions themselves.
The other three sanctioned members of the cartel include Raymundo Perez Uribe, Saul Paez Lopez and Mario Esteban Ogazon Sedano. Uribe allegedly leads a supplier network used by the cartel to obtain chemicals used to make drugs; Lopez is allegedly involved in coordinating drug shipments for members of Los Chapitos; and Sedano allegedly purchases chemicals used to make drugs and operates illegal laboratories on the behalf of the cartel.
A Mexican company, Sumilab, S.A. de C.V., was also designated by OFAC, for its "involvement in providing and shipping precursor chemicals for and to" cartel members and associates.
All four individuals and the company were designated 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."
"Today's action continues to disrupt key nodes of the global illicit fentanyl enterprise, including the producers, suppliers, and transporters," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson in the OFAC news release. "Treasury, in close coordination with the Government of Mexico and U.S. law enforcement, will continue to leverage our authorities to isolate and disrupt Los Chapitos and the Sinaloa Cartel's operations at every juncture."
These are not the first charges faced by Lopez, who works closely with Los Chapitos and has responsibilities including "overseeing many aspects of the Los Chapitos drug trafficking empire," OFAC said.
Lopez was first indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in 2018 and has multiple charges since then. The other three members of Los Chapitos have also been indicted on U.S. federal drug trafficking charges in one or more jurisdictions. Last month, three members of Los Chapitos were hit with multiple charges in the U.S., including fentanyl trafficking, weapons trafficking, money laundering and witness retaliation. They have denied the charges.
The Sinoloa cartel is responsible for a significant portion of illicit fentanyl trafficked into the United States, and has operated since the 1980s. The organization increased its power and influence in the early 2000s, and has since become one of the largest drug trafficking operations in Mexico, OFAC said. The cartel also traffics heroin and methamphetamine in multi-ton quantities, the agency said.
El Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel's founder, is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2019 on charges including drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons-related offenses.
In January, El Chapo sent an "SOS" message to Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, alleging that he has been subjected to "psychological torment" in prison.
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