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Mexico soccer star Rafael Marquez among 22 hit with U.S. sanctions for drug ties

MEXICO CITY -- Legendary Mexican soccer player Rafael Marquez Alvarez and a well-known norteno band leader are among 22 people sanctioned for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday. 

The Treasury said in a statement that it will also sanction 43 entities in Mexico, including a soccer team and casino. 

The sanctions are the result of a multi-year investigation of the drug trafficking organization allegedly headed by Raul Flores Hernandez. 

It is the single largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the statement said. 

Marquez is a former Barcelona and New York Red Bulls star who currently plays for the Mexican soccer club Atlas in Guadalajara and is captain of the Mexican national team. 

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Messages left for Marquez's agent Enrique Nieto seeking comment were not immediately answered. 

Flores Hernandez allegedly operated independently in the northern city of Guadalajara, but maintained alliances with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels. Those alleged alliances allowed Flores to operate in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Mexico City, Mexico, since the 1980s, the Treasury statement said.

The Mexican Attorney General's Office also seized related assets, including the Grand Casino near Guadalajara, according to the Treasury statement. 

"Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds," OFAC Director John E. Smith said in the statement. 

Federal drug trafficking indictments against Flores Hernandez were returned in March in Washington and the southern district of California. 

The U.S. government referred to Marquez and norteno singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, better known as Julion Alvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, who "have acted as front persons for him and his (drug trafficking organization) and held assets on their behalf." 

The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets of the people and entities named and forbid U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

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