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Treasury, Justice, and State Coordinate Efforts to Combat Drug Trafficking


WASHINGTON – As part of an ongoing effort to apply financial measures against narcotics traffickers worldwide, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated four drug cartel leaders as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  The four individuals designated today are leaders of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, groups that are responsible for much of the violence taking place in Mexico today.


“Following on the heels of the President’s naming of Los Zetas as a drug kingpin organization in April, we are today targeting sanctions against four drug lords who are senior leaders in Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. “We remain committed to using all tools at our disposal to assist President Calderon in his courageous efforts against Mexico’s deadly narcotics cartels.”


OFAC designated the following two individuals, who are leaders of the Gulf Cartel:

  • Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez (alias “El Coss”)
  • Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen (alias “Tony Tormenta”)


The following two individuals were also designated and are leaders of Los Zetas:

  • Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano (alias “Lazca”)

  • Miguel Angel Trevino Morales (alias “Cuarenta”)


Today’s action is the latest in a series of coordinated efforts by the U.S. government to neutralize and dismantle Mexico’s violent drug cartels.  The Department of Justice, in coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has today announced new drug trafficking charges against Miguel Angel Trevino Morales. In June 2009, the Department of Justice charged 19 of the drug cartels’ top lieutenants, including Jorge Costilla Sanchez, Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, and Miguel Trevino Morales with drug trafficking-related crimes.  Today, the State Department announced rewards of up to $5 million each, for information leading to the capture or conviction of 10 Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas leader, including Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and Miguel Trevino Morales. The State Department is also offering a $5 million reward for Jorge Costilla Sanchez. In 2008, Jorge Costilla Sanchez, Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, and Miguel Trevino Morales were previously charged with drug trafficking crimes in the District of Colombia. Jorge Costilla Sanchez and Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen are also subjects of drug trafficking charges in the Southern District of Texas. The Mexican Attorney General’s Office also announced rewards of up to $2.4 million dollars (30,000,000 pesos), per individual, for information leading to their capture.  


In 2007, the Gulf Cartel was identified as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act.  The Gulf Cartel is responsible for the smuggling and distribution of significant amounts of cocaine and marijuana to the United States.  Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez and Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen direct the Gulf Cartel’s trafficking and sale of narcotics and ensure the flow of illicit proceeds earned from the drug trade back to the Gulf Cartel’s coffers.  Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen is the brother of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who was identified as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker in 2001. Osiel Cardenas Guillen was extradited from Mexico to the United States in January 2007.


Los Zetas were identified under the Kingpin Act in 2009. Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, as leaders of Los Zetas, control drug smuggling operations and battle rival cartels trying to expand into Gulf Cartel/Zeta territory.  Historically, Los Zetas are considered to be the armed-wing of the Gulf Cartel, but they often operate independently.

Treasury’s OFAC is responsible for an ongoing effort under the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers worldwide.  Since June 2000, more than 475 businesses and individuals associated with 82 drug kingpins have been designated by OFAC. Designation action freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting transactions or dealings in the property interests of the designated individuals and entities

Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to 1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million.  Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals face up to ten years in prison for criminal violation of the Kingpin Act and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code.

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