Sunday, July 21, 2024

US announces new sanctions targeting members of La Nueva Familia Michoacana

The United States government has imposed sanctions on eight members of the Mexico-based La Nueva Familia Michoacana (LNFM) drug cartel for trafficking illicit drugs in the U.S. including fentanyl.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the sanctions at a press conference in Atlanta on Thursday.

“Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] has sanctioned eight targets affiliated with La Nueva Familia Michoacana, a notorious Mexican criminal organization that traffics fentanyl and other lethal drugs into the United States — including to Georgia,” Yellen said.

The Department of the Treasury (USDT) said in a statement that the sanctioned individuals include “top leaders” of the organization, which it described as “one of the most powerful and violent cartels in Mexico.”

One of the men is Rodolfo Maldonado Bustos, who the USDT said is “a powerful and trusted member of La Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel and is next-in-line to Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga and Jose Alfredo Hurtado Olascoaga, the two co-leaders of La Nueva Familia Michoacana, both of whom OFAC designated in November 2022.”

Another is Josue Ramírez Carrera, described as “a financial leader and third-in-line in the leadership of La Nueva Familia Michoacana,” which has a strong presence in states such as Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos and México state.

A chart showing eight sanctioned members of La Nueva Familia Michoacana
The U.S. Treasury said the newly announced sanction targets include leaders, lieutenants and an assassin belonging to the criminal organization La Nueva Familia Michoacana. (U.S. OFAC)

The USDT said four of the six other designated individuals are “key lieutenants,” while another is “a sicario, or assassin, that works directly for Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga and Jose Alfredo Hurtado Olascoaga.”

The eighth man is Euclides Camacho Goicochea, who the USDT said “moves a significant amount of drugs, particularly methamphetamine, to Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, among other areas.”

Camacho and Maldonado were indicted on heroin trafficking charges by separate federal grand juries in the United States in 2017. The two fugitives are believed to be living in Mexico.

Five of the eight sanctioned individuals are Guerrero natives, according to U.S. authorities, while the other three are from Mexico City, Veracruz and Querétaro.

The sanctions announced by Yellen on Thursday cut the men off from the United States financial system and freeze any assets they may have in the U.S.

The USDT said that LNFM “historically” trafficked mostly methamphetamine, but expanded into the illegal fentanyl trade in recent years.

It has obtained “the necessary precursor chemicals” — most of which come into Mexico from China — purchased “critical pill press machines” and is producing fentanyl “throughout Mexico,” the department said.

A chart shows members of La Nueva Familia Michoacana targeted by U.S. sanctions in 2022
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) had already sanctioned top LNFM brass in 2022. (Under Secretary Brian Nelson/X)

The USDT said that the cartel ships fentanyl and other drugs across the border between Texas and Tamaulipas on buses, “among other modes of transport.”

“Once the drugs are in the United States, the drugs are then sent to multiple cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Tulsa, Chicago, and Charlotte,” it added.

Human smuggling and La Nueva Familia Michoacana

The USDT said LNFM also profits from human smuggling.

“For instance, La Nueva Familia Michoacana members stage photos and videos in which individuals appear under interrogation or at risk of being murdered,” it said.

“With these photos or videos in hand, the individuals will then falsely claim to United States immigration officials their purported need to seek asylum in the United States,” the USDT said.

Migrants on top of a freight train
The U.S. Treasury said LNFM is implicated in human trafficking of migrants seeking to enter the United States. (Cuartoscuro)

“In return for this service, the individuals pay La Nueva Familia Michoacana money.”

The USDT also said that LNFM is “known for forcing individuals to enter the United States illegally with drugs for the purpose of selling narcotics in the United States.”

“If the individuals do not comply with the order to sell the drugs provided by La Nueva Familia Michoacana, they are informed that they and their families will be killed,” it said.

US issues advisory to help banks detect drug-related transactions

Yellen also announced Thursday that the USDT’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network had issued “a new advisory for financial institutions to help them detect financial flows that fuel the illicit fentanyl supply chain.”

“This is critical to enabling law enforcement and sanctions actions against fentanyl traffickers,” she said.

The USDT said that the advisory “includes new trends and red flags that can be indicators of activity associated with the procurement of precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment used for the synthesis of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.”

The red flags and other information will “assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious transactions potentially related to Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations and their illicit procurement of fentanyl precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment from People’s Republic of China-based suppliers,” the department said.

It added that Mexican criminal organizations have become “the predominant suppliers of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States since 2019.”

Fentanyl pills in bags
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are leading suppliers of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs sold illegally in the United States. (CBP Troy Miller/X)

Yellen acknowledged that combating the trafficking of fentanyl — in which Mexico is a key partner of the U.S. — is a “significant challenge.”

However, she pledged that she and U.S. President Joe Biden would do “everything” they can to “combat this crisis.”

Yellen — who traveled to Mexico late last year and announced sanctions against the Beltrán Leyva criminal organization while she was here — also said that collaboration with Mexico is “crucial.”

“… Treasury is committed to sharing more information, including with financial institutions on both sides of the border, and we will emphasize the need for even greater cooperation as we engage with President-elect Sheinbaum,” she said.

Mexico News Daily 

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