By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned several Mexican nationals, Sinaloa Cartel members and six Mexico-based entities for their involvement in the illicit methamphetamine and fentanyl trade.
Its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made the announcement Wednesday when identifying the Sinaloa Cartel’s role “as the preeminent facilitator of illicit fentanyl and other deadly drugs being trafficked into the United States.”
The ringleader of the group, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, was captured and arrested on Jan. 5, 2023, by Mexican authorities ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to Mexico.
Roughly six weeks later, OFAC announced it was imposing sanctions on several Mexican nationals and entities. They include two ring leaders underneath Guzman Lopez, brothers Ludim Zamudio Lerma and Luis Alfonso Zamudio Lerma, for “diverting illicit precursor chemicals directly into the hands of Sinaloa Cartel members and laboratory operators.”
“The Zamudio Lerma brothers and their network enable the production of synthetic drugs that devastate American lives, while lining the pockets of Sinaloa Cartel leadership,” OFAC Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement. “Depriving this network of access and resources will hinder the Sinaloa Cartel’s ability to produce and traffic the illicit drugs it depends on.”
Law enforcement officers have explained that precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl are shipped from China to Mexican ports, where cartels and their operatives manufacture them into fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl. They also lace other drugs with illicit fentanyl and through an elaborate network smuggle them into the U.S., primarily through the southern border, Border Patrol agents have told The Center Square.
The cartels manufacture fake pills and other drugs in “super labs,” which are “large-scale drug laboratories that produce 10 or more pounds of an illicit drug per production cycle,” specifically illicit fentanyl and methamphetamine for the Sinaloa Cartel, the Treasury Department explains.
Based in Sinaloa, Mexico, the brothers and Ludim Zamudio Lerma’s son, Ludim Zamudio Ibarra, supplied illicit precursor chemicals to high-level Sinaloa Cartel members, the Treasury Department said. The cartel members include Luis Gerardo Flores Madrid, who works directly for Ovidio Guzman Lopez, and lab operators Ernesto Machado Torres and Jose Santana Arredondo Beltran.
OFAC designated each of these men, pursuant to Executive Order 14059, “for having engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.”
The Zamudio family owns numerous Mexico-based businesses, two of which were also designated under the order and sanctioned: Aceros y Refacciones del Humaya, S.A. de C.V. and Farmacia Ludim.
OFAC also designated and sanctioned two real estate businesses: Inmobiliaria del Rio Humaya, S.A. de C.V., for “being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Ludim Zamudio Lerma;” and Operadora Zait, S.A. de C.V., “for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Luis Alfonso Zamudio Lerma.”
OFAC also designated and sanctioned two import/export companies: Operadora del Humaya, S.A. de C.V. and Operadora Parque Alamedas, S. de R.L. de C.V., “for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Ludim Zamudio Lerma and Ludim Zamudio Ibarra.”
The Treasury Department says it took the action in coordination with the Mexican government and “would not have been possible without the cooperation, support, and ongoing collaboration with the FBI Phoenix Field Office (Tucson Resident Agency), the FBI Legal Attaché San Salvador (Sub-Office Guatemala City), and the DEA Tucson District Office.”
Designated properties and interests in properties located in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons “must be blocked” financially and reported to OFAC, as well as U.S. persons financially engaging with them, the Treasury Department says. Violators may face civil or criminal penalties. Those who engage “in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action,” the Treasury Department added.