To cripple the drug trafficking and money laundering activities of one of Mexico's most active cartels, the federal government has designated its Columbian cocaine supplier as a drug-trafficking kingpin. The move gives law enforcement agencies greater powers to punish the network's U.S. associates and freeze assets.
Colombian national Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa (a.k.a. Elkin de Jesus Lopez Salazar) has been identified as the Sinaloa cartel's primary cocaine supplier. Cifuentes Villa and more than 70 individuals and entities in the drug trafficking and money laundering organization are now Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNTs), following action by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Department of Treasury's Officer of Foreign Assets (OFAC).
The designation, which was announced Wednesday, came as a result of DEA investigations. The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), prohibits U.S. residents from conducting financial or commercial transactions with associates and freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
"DEA and our Colombian partners vigorously pursued this complex investigation targeting the Cifuentes enterprise, which hid their massive cocaine trafficking schemes behind a facade of numerous businesses, corporations and holdings," according to DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Today's actions severely curtail the Cifuentes organization's ability to use legitimate commerce to mask their illicit money laundering activities and operate their international criminal network."
Cifuentes Villa, a native Colombian who also holds Mexican citizenship, leads a drug trafficking organization with operations in Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama and Spain that is closely allied with the Joaquin Guzman "El Chapo" Loera's Sinaloa Cartel.
In November, Cifuentes Villa and Guzman Loera were indicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges in a U.S. District Court in Florida. Alfredo Alvarez Zepeda (a.k.a. Gabino Ontiveros Rios), who acts as a drug trafficking liaison between the Cifuentes Villa organization and Guzman Loera, and key criminal associates who provide material support to Cifuentes Villa's drug trafficking activities, Jaime Alberto Roll Cifuentes, Winston Nicholls Eastman, David Gomez Ortiz, and Shimon Yelinek were also named.
Juan Pablo Antonio Londono Ramirez, a business partner of Cifuentes Villa, is among the other individuals designated today. Londono Ramirez owns stored-value card company Monedeux with locations in Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Spain, and the U.S.
Cifuentes Villa owns or controls 15 companies operating in Colombia, Mexico, and Ecuador that are involved in a variety of economic sectors that include Linea Aerea Pueblos Amazonicos S.A.S., an airline operating in eastern Colombia; Red Mundial Inmobiliaria, S.A. de C.V., a real estate company near Mexico City; and Gestores del Ecuador Gestorum S.A., a consulting company in Quito, Ecuador.
Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of more than $1 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.