The U.S. Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday imposed sanctions against 10 foreign nationals accused of being involved in trafficking drugs into the United States. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The United States has sanctioned nine people connected to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel as well as the leader of Colombia's Clan Del Golfo, as the Biden administration targets international narcotic traffickers to stem the opioid epidemic at home that is being fueled by illicit fentanyl.
The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announced the sanctions against the 10 individuals Tuesday on accusations that they are involved in the production of drugs, specifically the synthetic opioid fentanyl and cocaine.
"Today's actions show that Treasury and the administration will continue to relentlessly target the criminal enterprises threatening international security and flooding our communities with fentanyl and other deadly drugs," Brain Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.
The nine Mexico-based targets are accused of operating under the Sinaloa Cartel's Los Chapitos faction, with seven of them indicted in April in New York State on charges, ranging from fentanyl and weapons trafficking to money laundering. The State Department has also offered rewards for information leading to their arrests.
The infamous Sinaloa Cartel -- which was led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is serving a life sentence at a Colorado maximum security prison -- is responsible for a significant portion of the illicit fentanyl and other drugs that make their way on to U.S. streets, U.S. officials said.
Earlier this month, Ovidio Guzman-Lopez, on of El Chapo's sons, was extradited to the United States to face charges linked to drug trafficking, money laundering and violent crimes.
The nine sanctioned Tuesday include those involved in the various aspects of drug trafficking for security and sales to money laundering and distribution.
The Treasury also hit Jobanis de Jesus Avila Villadiego, known as Chiquito Malo, leader of the Clan del Golfo, which is a cocaine supplier to major drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel.
Avila Villadiego became the leader of the Colombian paramilitary and drug cartel in May 2022 after it was announced its previous leader was to be extradited to the United States. Colombia is offering a reward of some $1.2 million for information that aids in locating and arresting the man.
The sanctions, which freeze any assets they have in the United States while blocking U.S. citizens from doing business with them, were issued under a December 2021 executive order by President Joe Biden that allows the imposition of punitive measures against foreigners involved in the drug trade.
The White House said the Sinaloa-related sanctions were done in close coordination with Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Colombia action coincides with the United States-Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group in Bogota.
"We remain laser-focused on going after one of the key drivers of the overdose epidemic: international drug traffickers' profits," White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta said Tuesday in a statement.