U.S. Authorities Designate Mexican, Colombian Drug Cartels Bosses

Published: 27 September 2021

Sinaloa KingPin ActSinaloa Cartel Kingpin Designation Act. (Photo: U.S. Department of the Treasury)

By Zdravko Ljubas

The United States sanctioned on Wednesday a Sinaloa cartel boss and seven other Mexicans for smuggling tons of fentanyl and other drugs into the U.S., the Department of Treasury said in a statement.

Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela oversees a major drug trafficking corridor in Mexico and reports directly to the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael Zambada Garcia, called “El Mayo,” the statement said.

Valenzuela Valenzuela was designated pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which globally targets significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also blacklisted seven more Mexican nationals and two Mexican businesses, including Valenzuela Valenzuela's right-hand man, Leonardo Pineda Armenta, and six cartel lieutenants.

Valenzuela Valenzuela remains a fugitive but his “property and interests in property, as well as those of other designated individuals and entities, that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.”

The sanctions follow a series of designations the Treasury announced against other drug smugglers, including Colombian Zulma Maria Musso Torres, a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker” also known as “La Patrona” or “La Señora.” She is the “leader of an international drug trafficking organization,” based in Santa Marta, Colombia, according to OFAC.

Her group controls strategically positioned maritime lanes in northern Colombia and is in charge of arranging the movement of multi-ton amounts of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, the statement said.

The gang charges traffickers a per kilogram tax in exchange for protection and safe transit of multi-ton shipments of narcotics through that area.

As a wife and mother, Musso Torres has been enjoying full support of her family — sons Washington Antunez Musso and Juan Carlos Reales Britto, and her husband, Luis Antonio Bermudez Mejia. U.S. authorities designated them too for “providing material support to the narcotics trafficking activities of Musso Torres.”

In the last 21 years, U.S. authorities sanctioned more than 2,200 entities and individuals under the Kingpin Act for their involvement in international drug trafficking.

The Treasury Department reminded that “penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to US$1,548,075 per violation to more severe criminal penalties.”

Corporate officers can face up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million, while corporations can face fines of up to $10 million, according to OFAC.