The United States government imposed sanctions today on 11 Mexicans, including a sitting federal judge and a former governor, for their alleged involvement in corruption and links to drug trafficking.
The Department of Treasury said in a statement that Judge Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez was designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act because he received bribes from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and Los Cuinis drug trafficking gang in exchange for providing favorable judicial rulings to their senior members.
It is the first time that a member of Mexico’s federal judiciary has been placed on the kingpin list. Avelar’s access to any financial assets he holds in the United States will be blocked.
Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) announced earlier this week that they had frozen the Jalisco-based judge’s bank accounts and filed a criminal complaint against him with the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
Treasury said that former Nayarit governor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda was also designated for having engaged in an array of corruption activities such as the misappropriation of state assets and the receipt of bribes from Mexican drug traffickers, including the CJNG.
Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Department of Treasury, said that United States authorities coordinated with their Mexican counterparts to make the new designations.
“Officials such as Isidro Avelar Gutiérrez and Roberto Sandoval Castañeda callously enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens,” she said.
“Whether they are receiving bribes from narcotics trafficking organizations or engaging in a variety of other illicit activities, these and other corrupt officials will face serious consequences including being cut off from the U.S. financial system.”
Treasury said that six other Mexican individuals and six Mexican entities linked to the CJNG or Los Cuinis were designated under the Kingpin Act, while three of Sandoval’s family members and four entities with links to the ex-governor were also named.
Among those designated was Gonzalo Mendoza Gaytan, a senior CJNG member and boss of the Puerto Vallarta plaza who is known as “El Sapo” (The Toad). Treasury said he and his subordinates are responsible for kidnappings and numerous killings.
Mendoza’s wife, Liliana Rosas Camba, was also designated because she “manages business activities and launders drug proceeds on behalf of her husband and CJNG.”
The six designated entities with cartel links are all located in the Guadalajara area. They include three architecture and real estate firms, an organic products company, a women’s clothing store and a restaurant management company.
The wife, adult son and adult daughter of Sandoval, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor of Nayarit between 2011 and 2017, were also designated, Treasury said.
“Sandoval Castañeda and his family members continue to enjoy the illicit benefits from his corruption schemes,” the statement said.
Édgar Veytia, attorney general of Nayarit during Sandoval’s administration, is in prison in the United States after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges in January.
The four entities that were designated because they are owned or controlled by Sandoval or a family member were a butcher business, a clothing store, a real estate company and a land-holding foundation.
Treasury said that the access of all designated individuals and entities to any financial assets and property they own in the United States will be blocked.
The designations are not criminal charges but rather administrative actions and don’t guarantee that authorities will seek to prosecute those named.
Sandoval denied today that he had any connection with the Jalisco cartel and said he was innocent of the accusations.
Mexican soccer star Rafael Márquez and singer Julión Álvarez were placed on the United States kingpin list in 2017 but neither faced charges in Mexico.