Authorities in the United States made significant announcements Thursday relating to notorious drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero and La Nueva Familia Michoacana organized crime group.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said that a Mexican court had authorized a U.S. request for Caro Quintero’s real estate in Mexico to be seized, while the U.S. Department of the Treasury (DOT) announced sanctions against La Nueva Familia Michoacana and its co-leaders.
The DOJ described the court’s upholding of a U.S. forfeiture order as a “landmark ruling,” saying that it invoked Mexico’s new civil forfeiture law for the first time. The properties to be seized are located in and around Guadalajara, the department said in a statement.
“The forfeiture represents the United States’ groundbreaking use of Mexico’s new statute to divest drug cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero of ill-gotten gains. Caro Quintero is indicted in the Eastern District of New York for leading a continuing criminal enterprise and related crimes. He is currently in custody in Mexico and extradition proceedings are ongoing,” the DOJ said.
Caro Quintero, founder of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel and convicted murderer of United States DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, was arrested in northern Mexico in July.
The DOJ said that “the forfeited properties … were purchased by Rafael Caro Quintero with drug proceeds generated by the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, an affiliate of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel.”
“This forfeiture sends a powerful message to drug kingpins in Mexico and elsewhere that there are no boundaries to prosecuting bad actors and locating their ill-gotten assets wherever they are in the world,” said Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Anne Milgram, administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said that “for over 30 years, the men and women of the DEA have worked tirelessly to bring Rafael Caro Quintero to justice for his violent and ruthless acts.”
“Today’s order — authorizing the forfeiture of Caro Quintero’s properties in Mexico — demonstrates that DEA agents will follow the evidence wherever it leads to hold drug traffickers fully accountable for their deadly crimes.”
The 70-year-old drug lord spent 28 years in jail for the 1985 murder of Camarena before his 40-year sentence was cut short in 2013 after it was ruled that he was improperly tried in a federal court when the case should have been heard at the state level. The Supreme Court later upheld the 40-year sentence, but the drug lord had disappeared by then.
Another target of United States law enforcement authorities is La Nueva Familia Michoacana, the drug trafficking successor group to La Familia Michoacana cartel.
The DOT said in a statement that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Thursday designated that organization, which operates in Guerrero, Michoacán and other states, and its co-leaders, Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga and José Alfredo Hurtado Olascoaga, in accordance with a 2021 executive order — “Imposing Sanctions on Foreign Persons Involved in the Global Illicit Drug Trade.”
The department said that La Nueva Familia Michoacana and the Hurtado brothers have “engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.”
“La Nueva Familia Michoacana smuggles illicit drugs into and throughout the United States. This organization is also behind the increasing U.S. presence of rainbow fentanyl, which, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, appears in the form of pills/powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes and is made to attract children and young users,” the DOT said.
Johnny Hurtado, known as “El Pez” (The Fish) and José Hurtado, known as “El Fresa” (The Strawberry or The Snob), are “two of the most wanted criminals in Mexico,” the department said. It noted that the México state Attorney General’s Office is offering a reward of up to 500,000 pesos (US $25,750) for information leading to their capture.
The DOT also said that La Nueva Familia Michoacana has “demonstrated a willingness to attack government officials and buildings in Mexico, in addition to employing and training multiple assassins.”
Brian E. Nelson, DOT’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Thursday that “today’s action targets the leadership of one of the most violent and depraved drug cartels.”
“Not only does this cartel traffic fentanyl, which claimed the lives of more than 71,000 Americans last year, it now markets ‘rainbow fentanyl’ as part of a deliberate effort to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults. Treasury’s partnership with the DEA and the Mexican government has been critical as we take actions to protect our citizens from the harmful effects of these deadly narcotics,” he said.
As a result of Thursday’s designation, “all property and interests in property of the designated individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC,” the DOT said.
Mexico News Daily