Tuesday, April 16, 2024

US arrests 23 linked to Jalisco New Generation Cartel operations in Houston area

The United States government announced Monday that 23 people allegedly affiliated with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) have been detained in the U.S. on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Those detained are among 41 individuals charged in connection with a scheme under which illicit drugs smuggled into the United States from Mexico were distributed in the U.S. between December 2018 and April 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

16 suspects remain at large, including Roque Zamudio-Mendoza. (thecentersquare.com)

The department said that the 23 suspects were taken into custody after “the return [in December] of a 50-count indictment alleging cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and meth trafficking and related crimes in the Houston and Galveston areas” of Texas.

Twenty of the 23 detainees were arrested last week during an operation carried out in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Washington, and California, during which firearms, luxury Rolex watches and large amounts of cash were seized, the DOJ said. The other three were taken into custody at an earlier date.

“The indictment alleges they all operated under the overall control of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel,” said the DOJ, which described the arrests as “the culmination of a 63-month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation dubbed Operation Rainmaker.”

The 41 individuals charged in connection with the smuggling and distribution scheme were allegedly involved in the distribution of drugs from southeast Texas to other cities in the United States including New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville and Chicago, the DOJ said.

The suspects face sentences of up to life in prison if convicted, while the indictment also seeks forfeiture of illegal proceeds of the alleged crimes, which are estimated at US $10 million.

Of the 18 suspects not in custody, two are dead and 16 are at large, the department said.

Authorities have been searching for El Mencho, the leader of the CJNG, for years.
Authorities have been hunting for El Mencho, the leader of the CJNG, for years. (U.S. DEA)

Among the fugitives is Roque Zamudio Mendoza, identified as “the main source” of drugs smuggled into the United States in the 2018-20 CJNG scheme. The 52-year-old Mexican national is believed to be in Mexico, the DOJ said.

Announcing the 23 arrests at a press conference on Monday, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Alamdar Hamdani, said that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel “casts a long shadow that extends far beyond the borders of a single nation and into the streets of places like Houston and beyond.”

“… The CJNG is not just confined to Michoacán or Jalisco. It’s in Houston. Its folks are in Houston. Its folks are in other parts of the country. That is the big message we want to send. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is not just a far-off entity. They’re in the streets of Houston. They’re in our communities,” he said.

In addition to the recent arrests, U.S. authorities have seized “approximately 550 kilograms of meth, 249 kilograms of cocaine, 34 kilograms of heroin, five kilograms of pentobarbital and 22,600 fentanyl-laced pills” during Operation Rainmaker, according to the DOJ.

“Have you heard the term ‘one pill can kill’ when it comes to fentanyl? [That’s] 22,600 deadly pills,” Hamandi said.

Led by Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, the CJNG is one of the two most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, the other being the Sinaloa Cartel.

The CJNG operates in the vast majority of Mexico’s 32 states, if not all of them, as well as many countries around the world.

Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram told U.S. lawmakers last year that the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) have more than 40,000 members and associates in over 100 countries around the world.

She has asserted that the two cartels pose “the greatest criminal threat the United States has ever faced” given the large quantities of narcotics they smuggle into the country.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that “countless American lives have been lost because of the Jalisco and Sinaloa Cartels.”

“Over the past three years, the Justice Department has zeroed in on these cartels, and with these arrests of dozens of Jalisco Cartel associates, we are taking yet another step in our fight to dismantle these deadly organizations,” he said.

With reports from ABC and Houston Public Media 

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