United States: OFAC Uses Sanctions To Target Drug Trafficking Operations Worldwide

OFAC made several designations under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act this quarter, many of which built on previously issued sanctions targeting major drug trafficking organizations by targeting affiliates and financial networks. For instance, on July 1, OFAC targeted as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNTs) Pedro Claver Mejia Salazar and members of his narcotics money laundering network. Mejia Salazar allegedly launders narcotics proceeds on behalf of La Oficina de Envigado, a group designated by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act on June 26. OFAC has stated that the group also provides other criminal networks with enforcement services, including debt collection, extortion, and murder-for-hire. OFAC also designated Colombian national Fredy Alonso Mira Perez, an alleged underboss in La Oficina de Envigado, and ten individuals and 14 entities based in Colombia. Eight additional alleged underbosses of La Oficina de Envigado were designated on September 16. The designations included a number of La Oficina operatives incarcerated in Colombia but who allegedly continue to coordinate operations from prison. On July 23, OFAC designated 17 leaders and criminal associates of Los Urabenos, which it described as the most influential criminal group operating in Colombia. Los Urabenos was identified as an SDNT pursuant to the Kingpin Act on May 31, 2013. OFAC noted that several of the designated individuals designated are former members of Los Machos, a smaller criminal network that was effectively absorbed by Los Urabenos. On August 20, OFAC designated the Honduras-based Los Valles drug trafficking organization, described as one of the most prolific Central American narcotics trafficking organizations, responsible for the distribution of tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine per month directly into the United States. OFAC noted that Los Valles utilizes a combination of violence and public corruption to keep control over its base of operations in Honduras. OFAC also targeted Honduran national Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle and his brothers Luis Alonso Valle Valle and Jose Renerio Valle Valle for acting on behalf of the Los Valles organization, along with four businesses tied to the Valle Valle brothers: Inversiones Yosary, Inversiones Luisito, Inversiones Valle, and Finca Los Tres Reyes. OFAC emphasized that this action was taken in coordination with the Honduras government, who ran an August 17 asset seizure operation against more than 40 properties belonging to the Los Valles organization. On August 27, OFAC designated Sajid Emilio Quintero Navidad, cousin of fugitive drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who has been at large since August 9, 2013, and was targeted with sanctions in 2000. Navidad, aka El Cadete, is a Sonora, Mexico-based narcotics trafficker alleged to coordinate the transportation of ton quantities of cocaine from Guatemala and Bolivia through Sonora to the United States. Navidad is also allegedly responsible for conducting enforcement operations against the Sinaloa Cartel. OFAC has stated that the Sonora-Arizona drug trafficking corridor is the primary route used to bring drugs from Mexico into the United States. On September 11, OFAC targeted three Mexico-based lawyers and a company for their apparent ties to Quintero and another drug lord, Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno. In doing so, OFAC alleged that Jose Avina Bribiesca, Ignacio Gonzalez Hernandez and Janette Iliana Gonzalez Linares act on behalf of Juvencio Igancio Gonzalez Parada, a lawyer placed under sanctions in July 2012 for engaging in bribery and managing assets on behalf of Quintero and Esparragoza Moreno. The three lawyers hold official positions in the Guadalajara-based real estate company Bona-Habitat, which was placed under sanctions as well. In announcing the sanctions, OFAC emphasized that narcotics traffickers often employ corrupt attorneys to disguise and advance their illicit activities.

On July 29, OFAC designated members of a Chinese synthetic drug trafficking organization allegedly responsible for shipping thousands of kilograms of synthetic drugs and controlled substances worldwide. Chinese national Zhang Lei (aka Eric Chang), allegedly uses his company CEC Limited to manufacture and sell substances over the internet to consumers internationally, including bath salts, other synthetic psychoactive substances, and chemicals used to make such substances. OFAC also designated three other individuals who work for the company and Zhang: Chinese nationals Wang Guoying, Zhang Jicheng, and Hu Yongan.

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