USA Cracks Down on Opioid Traffickers

The United States continues to crackdown on illicit drug trafficking and manufacturing, particularly on fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. This time, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated a Mexican-based drug kingpin and his two associates for using precursor chemicals to manufacture and smuggle fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs into the country.

In a statement released on Monday, the Treasury identified Jose Angel Rivera Zazueta, also known as “El Tomate,” as the central figure behind the fentanyl trafficking operation. The designation also targets his close associates, Alexis Manuel Felix Valenzuela and Israel Alejandro Sanchez-Soto, who allegedly helped in the manufacturing and transportation of the illegal drugs.

The Treasury has designated the trio as “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), which prohibits U.S. citizens and businesses from engaging in transactions with them, freezing any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction, and exposing their activities to the international financial system.

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In addition to the Kingpin Act designation, the Treasury has also targeted a network of companies and individuals linked to the drug trafficking operation, including a Mexican national and two companies based in both Mexico and the United States that were allegedly used to launder drug money.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Andrea Gacki stated that “OFAC remains committed to targeting those involved in the illicit fentanyl trade and will use all available tools to disrupt and dismantle this deadly supply chain.”

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U.S. Targets Fentanyl Traffickers with Designation of Mexican-Based Drug Kingpin and Associates

Illicit synthetic drugs, particularly fentanyl sourced from foreign countries, have been identified as a significant threat to the health and safety of Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with two-thirds of fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids.

Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is often mixed with other drugs without the user’s knowledge, leading to fatal overdoses. The illicit drug trade has become increasingly transnational in recent years, with criminal organizations exploiting loopholes in international law to manufacture and distribute drugs across borders.

The designation of “El Tomate” and his associates is part of the U.S. government’s “whole-of-government effort to disrupt and dismantle the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate the illicit fentanyl supply chain and other illicit drug trafficking.”

The Treasury’s action comes at a time when drug overdoses in the United States have been on the rise, with a significant portion attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the drug epidemic, causing disruptions in drug trafficking routes and increasing the demand for drugs, as people turn to drugs to cope with isolation, stress, and economic hardship.

The designation of key players in the fentanyl trafficking trade is expected to help curb the illicit drug trade, reduce overdoses, and disrupt the criminal organizations behind them.

In summary, the Treasury’s designation of “El Tomate” and his associates, along with the network of companies and individuals linked to the drug trafficking operation, is a major step in the U.S. government’s efforts to dismantle transnational criminal organizations involved in the illicit fentanyl supply chain. The move is also a warning to other drug traffickers that the United States will not hesitate to target them and disrupt their criminal activities, especially those that endanger the health and safety of its citizens.