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Treasury Notes

 Disrupting Drug Trafficking Networks – Progress in 2013

By: Michael Swanson

Treasury made significant progress this year in our efforts to target drug lords worldwide and disrupt their support networks.  In order to further these goals, we’ve continued to utilize the authorities in the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”).   The Kingpin Act aims to protect the U.S. financial system by denying significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their businesses, and operatives access to the U.S. financial system.  The Act generally prohibits all trade and transactions between the traffickers and the U.S.  This year Treasury designated 83 individuals and 67 entities pursuant to the Kingpin Act, and the President identified six significant international narcotics traffickers. 

In 2013, Treasury focused on cartels operating out of Mexico and Central America by repeatedly targeting the family members and close associates of the Sinaloa Cartel, the associates and businesses of Los Zetas, and an ever-expanding network of narcotics trafficking organizations in Central America.  Treasury also continued to track the activities of major narcotics trafficking organizations in Colombia.

Below are several of the key Kingpin Act highlights from this past year, which highlight the continuing actions against priority targets.


  • On January 9, 2013, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Damaso Lopez Nunez, a top Sinaloa lieutenant and Ines Coronel Barreras, the father-in-law of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo" Guzman.  The two were designated for their role in the narcotics trafficking activities of Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel. 
  • On May 7, 2013, OFAC designated eight plaza bosses working directly for Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and Chapo Guzman.  Plaza bosses are leaders of a particular geographic area and they coordinate, direct, and support the smuggling of illegal drugs from Mexico into the U.S. They rely on violence to maintain their positions, using hitmen to control their specific geographic area.  Through this significant action, OFAC targeted the busy Sonora, Mexico corridor, which runs into the Tucson and Phoenix metropolitan areas, and is a major trans-shipment lane for the smuggling narcotics out of Mexico and into the United States.
  • On June 12, 2013, 18 individuals linked to Rafael Caro Quintero, a significant Mexican drug trafficker, were designated for their role as front persons, along with 15 companies that are owned and/or managed by these individuals in Mexico.  Rafael Caro Quintero began his criminal career in the late 1970s when he and others, including Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno (a.k.a. “El Azul”), formed the Guadalajara drug cartel and amassed an illicit fortune.  Caro Quintero was the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.  Caro Quintero was identified as a Tier I Kingpin by the President in 2000
  • On August 22, 2013, OFAC designated five Mexican individuals and published new aliases of seven previously designated companies, which operate gas stations, linked to another Sinaloa Cartel leader, Jose Esparragoza Moreno.  This action targeted the five individuals for managing the gas stations on behalf of Esparragoza Moreno and his network in an attempt to evade OFAC sanctions.  


  •  ​Also in 2013, Treasury aggressively targeted the violent Los Zetas, with four separate designation actionsOn August 1, 2013, Treasury designated Carolina Fernandez Gonzalez, wife of Zeta boss Omar Trevino Morales, her father, Jesus Fernandez de Luna, and his cattle sales company, ​Compania Ganaderia 5 Manantiales.  Omar Trevino Morales established this company for his wife and her father-in-law as a money laundering front to be used by Los Zetas.  Through this and other actions, Treasury shined the light on various aspects of Los Zetas, including its bulk cash and drug smuggling operations, its international financial operations, and the businesses used by Los Zetas leaders to launder their illicitly gained funds.
  • In August 2013, Forbes Magazine reported that “The U.S. Treasury has taken aggressive steps to target a number of Mexican individuals and business entities closely linked to the leadership of Mexico’s two major criminal organizations – the Sinaloa and the Zetas cartels – in an effort to disrupt their money laundering operations.” 


  • One of the most influential designations this year was the September 19 action targeting the Los Cachiros, a Honduran drug trafficking organization which plays a critical role in the transportation of narcotics from Colombia to Mexico.  On the same day that Treasury designated this organization, the Government of Honduras embarked on a week-long seizure action against Los Cachiros’ financial and commercial assets, including those businesses designated by OFAC, pursuant to the Honduran Asset Forfeiture Law. 


  • On July 9, 2013, OFAC announced the designation of Colombian nationals Isaac Perez Guberek Ravinovicz and his son, Henry Guberek Grimberg, as well as seven other individuals and 22 entities, including companies located in Colombia, Panama, and Israel.  These 31 individuals and entities comprise a money laundering network responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug money connected to transnational drug trafficking organizations.  Colombian press reporting following the action also identified La Oficina de Envigado, a Medellin-based criminal organization, and Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, previously designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act, as traffickers who used the services of the Guberek network to launder their drug proceeds in Colombia. 
  • Two Colombian “bandas criminales” – Los Rastrojos and Los Urabenos – were also targeted under the Kingpin Act in 2013.  On January 30, 2013, OFAC designated Los Rastrojos and its leader, Diego Perez Henao, as specially designated narcotics traffickers.  And on May 31, 2013, the President identified Los Urabenos as Tier I Kingpins.  Los Rastrojos and Los Urabenos have taken over the narcotics smuggling routes in Colombia, which was once predominately controlled by Colombian narco-terrorist organizations. 

This year’s actions underscore Treasury’s determination to identify and disrupt those supporting violent drug trafficking organizations and we will continue to be vigilant in targeting these organizations worldwide in 2014.

Michael Swanson is the Assistant Director for the Global Counter-Narcotics Division of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

Posted in:  Office of Foreign Assets Control
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