The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Homeland Security

12 January 2005

Mexican Money-Laundering Cell Named Foreign Narcotics Kingpin

U.S. Treasury action aims to disrupt financial networks of Mexican drug cartel

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added 15 companies and 24 individuals associated with a money-laundering cell of Mexico’s Arellano Felix drug cartel to its list of persons designated pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, according to a January 12 press release issued by OFAC.

The cell laundered more than $120 million in illicit proceeds over a three-year period, said OFAC.  The cell's designation prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in financial and commercial transactions with the designees and freezes any assets of the designees found in the United States.

"By freezing these individuals and companies out of the U.S. financial system, we are dealing a significant blow to the fiscal underbelly fueling the notorious drug trade of the Arellano Felix Organization," explained OFAC Director Robert Werner.

Following is the text of the OFAC press release, with further details:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

Washington, D.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 12, 2005

Treasury Designates Mexican Money-Laundering Cell

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today identified 15 companies and 24 individuals associated with a money-laundering cell of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), a violent drug-trafficking ring operating out of Mexico.

"Over a three year period, this cell laundered more than $120 million in illicit proceeds from the sale of narcotics," said Robert Werner, Director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  "By freezing these individuals and companies out of the U.S. financial system, we are dealing a significant blow to the fiscal underbelly fueling the notorious drug trade of the Arellano Felix Organization."

OFAC added the names of these 39 entities to its list of persons designated pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  AFO, which was named as a drug kingpin by President Bush on June 1, 2004, is based in Tijuana, a large city in the Mexican state of Baja California, which borders the United States.

This money-laundering cell was developed by Ivonne Soto Vega, also known as "La Pantera" (the Panther), and Jose Manuel Ruelas Martinez, who were designated today.  The cell is involved in an AFO money-laundering scheme centered on the use of casas de cambio, or currency-exchange houses.  These front companies launder U.S. currency illicitly earned through narcotics sales in the United States and bulk-smuggled into Mexico.  Soto Vega and Ruelas Martinez are both in the custody of Mexican authorities, awaiting trial on charges stemming from their involvement with the AFO.

In Tijuana, the cell consisted of several currency-exchange houses, including Centro Cambiario Kino, S.A. de C.V., GS Plus Consultores S.A. de C.V., and Multiservicios Gamal S.A. de C.V.  The cell also has a presence in Guadalajara with Grupo Gamal, S.A. de C.V.  In addition to currency-exchange houses, the cell also includes Casa de Empeno Rio Tijuana, S.A. de C.V., a pawn shop in Tijuana, and Hacienda de Don Jose Restaurant Bar, S.A. de C.V., a restaurant- and bar-supply company also located in Tijuana.

"Today's action is a testament to our collaboration with the San Diego office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)," said Werner.  "OFAC remains committed to working with our partners in the U.S. government and our foreign law enforcement counterparts to expose front companies controlled by drug cartels in Mexico and around the globe."

This action prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in financial and commercial transactions with the designees, and freezes any assets of the designees found in the United States.

The action taken today follows the designation of six lieutenants of the AFO in November 2004.  The 39 new names bring the total number of Tier I and Tier II Kingpins under the Kingpin Act to 160: 48 drug kingpins worldwide, 30 companies in Mexico, Peru, and the Caribbean, and 82 other individuals in Mexico, Colombia and the Caribbean.

This action is part of the ongoing interagency effort of the Treasury, Justice, State, Defense and Homeland Security Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the Kingpin Act.  Signed into law on December 3, 1999, the Kingpin Act applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers on a worldwide basis.  The Kingpin Act was modeled after Executive Order 12978, which applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia and which is also administered by OFAC.

For a complete list of the entities designated today, please visit: http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/actions/20050112.shtml

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2005&m=January&x=20050112143319ASrelliM9.891909e-02&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list