U.S. targets Sinaloa Cartel leaders with sanctions, indictment

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The United States announced actions Wednesday targeting the infamous Sinaloa Cartel with sanctions, an indictment and an increased reward for information leading to arrest of the drug trafficking gang's leader.

The Treasury designated eight alleged members of the cartel and two companies, including Mexican national Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela, 52, whom the federal department called a "plaza boss" overseeing a major Mexican drug trafficking corridor responsible for smuggling tons of fentanyl and other narcotics into the United States.


The department designated him as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for supporting the international narcotics activities of the Sinaloa Cartel.

He is accused of reporting directly to Ismael Zambada Garcia, who was previously named a significant narcotics trafficker under the same act. Valenzuela Valenzuela was charged in September 2018 in a federal indictment.

Valenzuela Valenzuela's right-hand man, Leonardo Pineda Armenta, and six cartel lieutenants who report to him were also blacklisted by the Treasury Wednesday as well as two companies associated with them freezing all their interests in property and denying U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

"Treasury's action against Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela demonstrates the OFAC's commitment to targeting high-level Sinaloa Cartel operatives, particularly those who traffic or facilitate the delivery of synthetic opioids to the United States," OFAC Director Andrea Gacki said.


Valenzuela Valenzuela was also charged with drug trafficking activities in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in San Diego, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the State Department announced it increased a $5 million reward to $15 million for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of Zambada Garcia, whom it said was a long-time business partner of convicted Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman, also known as "El Chapo."

Zambada Garcia has been the subject of previous indictments.

"This increase is commensurate with his leadership status in the Sinaloa Cartel," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The Biden administration has been clamping down on drug trafficking into the United States though it appears to be specifically targeting the Sinaloa Cartel.

In February, Emma Coronel Aispuro, El Chapo's 32-year-old wife, was arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., on charges of participating in the drug trafficking conspiracy.

Last week, Miguel Baez Guevara, 38, was charged in a 17-count indictment related to his organization seeking to import drugs to Alaska.

The Sinaloa associate was arrested Sept. 10 in Mexico and was deported to Phoenix where he pleaded not guilty on Sept. 14.


The Treasury on Sept. 16 also identified Zulma Mario Musso Torres, 58, as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker.

"Musso Torre's [drug trafficking organization] controls strategically located maritime corridors in northern Colombia and collects a per kilogram tax from narcotics traffickers for protection and safe passage of multi-ton shipments of narcotics through the DTO's area of control," the department said.

Her two sons, Washington Antunez Musso and Juan Carlos Reales Britto, as well as her husband, Luis Antonio Bermudez Mejia, were also designated for providing her with assistance.

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