Daughter of “El Mencho” Pleads Guilty to Kingpin Act Violations

03/23/21 (written by rramos) – On March 12, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release stating that 34-year-old Jessica Johanna Oseguera González, the daughter of  Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, pled guilty to criminal violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, a U.S. federal law commonly known as the Kingpin Act. According to the DOJ statement, Oseguera González pled guilty to “willfully engaging in financial dealings with Mexican companies” that had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for having “provided material support” to the CJNG’s drug trafficking activities. More specifically, court documents identified Oseguera González as an owner of two businesses that were formally identified by OFAC as “specially designated narcotics traffickers” for links to the CJNG, and as an “officer, director, or agent” of four other companies under OFAC sanctions. Two sushi restaurants, an advertising firm, and a tequila agency were among the six OFAC-designated entities with which Oseguera González “engaged in property transactions” and which were allegedly used to launder money for the CJNG. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11 and is facing up to 30 years in prison. 

Jessica Johanna, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen who also uses the criminal alias “La Negra,” was arrested by U.S. authorities in February 2020 at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. She had been attempting to attend the trial of her brother, Rubén “El Menchito” Oseguera González, who had just been extradited from Mexico to face drug trafficking charges in the United States.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

El Mencho’s Inner Circle Under Pressure

As illustrated by the case of Jessica Johanna, the governments of Mexico and the United States have increasingly focused their attention on members of “El Mencho” Oseguera’s inner circle as part of the broader effort to locate the elusive cartel leader. 

As mentioned earlier, his son Rubén has been in U.S. custody since 2020 after losing a “long legal fight against extradition.” He is currently awaiting trial for charges of conspiring to distribute large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as using a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking-related activities. A 2018 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) press release had identified Rubén as the CJNG’s “second in command” until his capture by Mexican officials in June 2015. 

Rosalinda González Valencia, widely reported to be the spouse of “El Mencho” and mother to both Rubén and Jessica Johanna, was arrested in May 2018 in Zapopan, Jalisco. Alfonso Navarrete Prida, Mexico’s then-interior minister, stated in a press conference following the arrest that González Valencia played a leading role in overseeing the CJNG’s financial operations. A month later, Rosalinda was formally accused in a Mexican court of “creating a network of 73 businesses” used to launder billions of pesos on behalf of the CJNG. In September 2018, however, she was released on bail after paying nearly 1.5 million pesos. 

Rosalinda’s brother, Abigael González Valencia, is another prominent member of El Mencho’s family that has been targeted by authorities. Abigael, known also as “El Cuini,” is assessed to be the leader of Los Cuinis organization, described by the DOJ as the CJNG’s “primary financial support network” responsible for conducting extensive money laundering operations. Abigael was arrested in Mexico in 2015, but since then has waged a prolonged legal battle that has continuously hampered ongoing attempts to extradite him to the United States. He remains incarcerated at El Altiplano federal prison in the State of Mexico even as other González Valencia siblings alleged to be members of the CJNG’s Los Cuinis support network have already been extradited or are awaiting extradition to face drug charges in the U.S.

Beyond his family, authorities have also been vigorously pursuing some of El Mencho’s closest associates within the CJNG. In early March 2021, OFAC sanctioned Juan Manuel “El Árabe” Abouzaid under the Kingpin Act for “his high-level role in facilitating drug shipments and money laundering” for the CJNG, with U.S. officials asserting he “[maintained] a close relationship with senior leaders of CJNG.” According to Univision, the DEA had identified Abouzaid in June 2020 as a high-ranking figure in the CJNG with ties to “El Mencho.” On March 9, just days after his OFAC designation, Abouzaid was arrested by Mexican federal agents, with the U.S. now reportedly seeking his extradition.

As the U.S. and Mexico continue to exert pressure on “El Mencho” Oseguera’s closest relatives and partners, he remains one of the most sought-after criminals in both countries. Both governments are offering substantial monetary awards (10 million dollars in the U.S. and 30 million pesos in Mexico) for information leading to his capture. With this in mind, it is likely that the systematic targeting of those closest to “El Mencho” is intended to obtain information on his whereabouts as well as on the inner workings of the CJNG. 

CJNG’s Continued Expansion

Nevertheless, the efforts of both the Mexican and U.S. governments to close in on “El Mencho” himself do not appear to be impeding the overall growth of the organization he leads. In its National Drug Threat Assessment released in March 2021, the DEA determined that the CJNG has seen a “rapid expansion” that has allowed the group to establish a “significant presence in 23 of the 32 Mexican states.” According to InSight Crime, the CJNG’s territorial advances within the past year have included “rapid gains in the states of Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Veracruz, and Mexico City.” In many of these areas, the CJNG appears to have nimbly exploited the fracturing or weakening of rival groups. In Guanajuato, the CJNG managed to win control of additional territories while its main adversary in the state, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, was engulfed in internal disputes following the arrest of its leader José Antonio “El Marro” Yépez Ortiz in August 2020. Meanwhile in Veracruz, remnants of the once-powerful Zetas network have been unable to prevent the CJNG from “[asserting] control” over the port of Veracruz or operating in and around the port city of Coatzacoalcos. 

Another key aspect of the CJNG’s continued growth has been its ability to leverage alliances with other criminal groups, often local-level organizations or fragments of weakened larger cartels, particularly in strategically-located areas along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities in the northern state of Chihuahua reportedly detected a meeting between members of the CJNG and La Línea, an armed wing of the Juárez Cartel, in which the two groups agreed to join forces to combat the Sinaloa Cartel for control of the Ciudad Juárez trafficking corridor. A similar dynamic is reportedly unfolding in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, with some media reports suggesting that the CJNG has maintained an alliance with Los Metros, an offshoot of the Gulf Cartel.  

Given that the CJNG draws its strength from many factors, such as its strategic network of alliances, diversity in income sources, and advanced money laundering capabilities, it is far from guaranteed that its expansion will be halted even if “El Mencho” is captured in the future. 

Sources

“Capturan a la esposa de ‘El Mencho’, líder del Cártel Jalisco.” Aristegui Noticias. May 27, 2018. 

Monroy, J., Romo, P., & Torres, R. “Cae en Jalisco esposa de líder del CJNG.” El Economista. May 27, 2018. 

“Vinculan a proceso a esposa de ‘El Mencho’.” La Silla Rota. June 2, 2018. 

Espino Bucio, Manuel. “Liberan a la esposa de ‘El Mencho’.” El Universal. September 7, 2018. 

“Indictments against 11 high level Mexican drug cartel members unsealed.” Drug Enforcement Administration. October 16, 2018. 

“Justice, Treasury, and State Departments Announce Coordinated Enforcement Efforts Against Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion.” U.S. Department of Justice. October 16, 2018. 

“Otorgan amparo al Cuini, cuñado del Mencho, que alarga su proceso de extradición a Estados Unidos.” Noroeste. January 17, 2019. 

Khalil, Ashraf. “Son of Mexican drug kingpin pleads not guilty to US charges.” Associated Press. February 21, 2020. 

“Dual U.S.-Mexican Citizen Arrested For Violations Of The Kingpin Act.” U.S. Department of Justice. February 27, 2020. 

Khalil, Ashraf. “Daughter of reputed Mexican cartel boss ‘El Mencho’ arrested attending brother’s trial.” El Paso Times. February 27, 2020. 

González Díaz, Marcos. “Narcotráfico en México: por qué el Mencho, el líder del Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, es ahora el hombre más buscado por la DEA.” BBC. March 11, 2020. 

“Alleged Narcotrafficker and High-Ranking Cartel Member Extradited from Uruguay to the United States.” U.S. Department of Justice. May 15, 2020. 

Espino, Manuel & Ávila, Edgar. “Entregan despensas en Veracruz a nombre de presuntos integrantes del CJNG.” El Universal. May 16, 2020. 

Alvarado, Isaías. “DEA: estos son los 4 capos de grueso calibre que llegaron a la cúpula del Cártel de Jalisco.” Univision. June 20, 2020. 

López Ponce, Jannet. “Restaurantes, constructoras y hasta estéticas: el imperio del CJNG para lavar dinero.” Milenio. June 21, 2020. 

Alessi, Gil. “El Chepa, ‘hombre fuerte’ de un cartel mexicano, comparte la prisión en Brasil con la cúpula del PCC.” El País. July 20, 2020. 

Beittel, June S. “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.” Congressional Research Service. July 28, 2020. 27-28. 

“‘El Cuini’, el socio del ‘Mencho’ que busca eludir su extradición.” Unión Jalisco. September 21, 2020. 

Dittmar, Victoria. “Mexico Facing Predictable Bloody Fallout After El Marro’s Arrest.” InSight Crime. November 12, 2020. 

Camhaji, Elías. “La sombra del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, un imperio de drogas y violencia.” El País. December 18, 2020. 

Dalby, Chris, Papadovassilakis, Alex, & Posada, Juan Diego. “GameChangers 2020: 3 Ways Criminal Groups Overcame Coronavirus.” InSight Crime. December 29, 2020. 

“Se une La Línea con el Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.” El Heraldo de Chihuahua. February 14, 2021. 

“2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.” Drug Enforcement Administration. March 2, 2021.

“Treasury Sanctions Fugitive Associate of CJNG.” U.S. Department of the Treasury. March 3, 2021. 

Gutiérrez González, Rodrigo. “Las ‘inusuales’ alianzas del CJNG, según la DEA.” La Silla Rota. March 3, 2021. 

“Detienen Juan Manuel Abouzaid, ‘El escorpión’, presunto líder del CJNG.” La Jornada. March 9, 2021. 

Gutiérrez González, Rodrigo. “Quién es El Escorpión, El acaudalado capo del CJNG en la mira de EU?” La Silla Rota. March 9, 2021. 

Alvarado, Isaías. “La hija del ‘El Mencho’ se declarará culpable en EEUU de lavar dinero del narcotráfico para el Cártel de Jalisco.” Univisión. March 10, 2021. 

“Daughter of Prolific Mexican Cartel Leader Pleads Guilty to Criminal Violation of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.” U.S. Department of Justice. March 12, 2021. 

Ormseth, Matthew. “Daughter of Mexican drug cartel leader pleads guilty to violating Kingpin Act.” Los Angeles Times. March 13, 2021.

Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother

Municipalities in the State of Guanajuato.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

06/30/20 (written by kheinle) – Tension and violence is growing in Guanajuato, already the country’s most violent state, after police arrested several family members of José Antonio Yepez, “El Marro.” The mother, sister, and cousin of El Marro, the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cartel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL) and one of Mexico’s most wanted drug kingpins, were picked up on June 20 in Celaya, Guanajuato. Two other women of no familial relation were also detained. Authorities also seized a kilogram of methamphetamine and $2 million pesos ($88,000 USD) during the operation. The women were arrested for allegedly playing key roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

This came as part of a joint operation between the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional), and the Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Guanajuato). Twenty-six other CSRL members were also arrested during the operation at different locations in surrounding municipalities, but they have since been released for lack of evidence, among other technicalities. 

El Marro Reacts

Following the arrests, El Marro released two short videos that quickly went viral during which he threatened to “unleash violence” in Guanajuato if his loved ones were not promptly released. “I’m going to be a stone in your shoe,” he said, directing his ire towards the Mexican government. “I’m going to blow up, you will see… In my mother’s and my people’s name… I don’t fear you.” He also claimed that authorities are working with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), a bitter rival of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. He then spoke of potentially establishing an alliance with other cartels to rise up in response to the authorities’ arrests, and thanked his supporters who had already taken up arms.

In the week since the June 20 operation, more than 100 people were killed in Guanajuato. Vehicles and businesses were set ablaze, narco-roadblocks established, four youth disappeared, and a bomb threat called in at a refinery in the municipality of Salamanca. In a unique turn of events, El Marro’s father, Rodolfo Yépez, was also released from prison on June 26 after having posted a $10,000 peso-bond. The judge who ordered his release and subsequent house arrest also noted the father’s senior age as a concern given the coronavirus pandemic. R. Yépez was serving time since March 2020 for robbery.

Violence in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is the most violent state in Mexico. From January to late June 2020, more than 1,725 homicides were registered, according to data from the Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). As El Universal writes, SESNSP data shows that “from January 1 to June 24 of 2020, about 9.9 homicides occur each day, or a murder every 2.4 hours, an unprecedented statistic for [Guanajuato].” In 2019, Guanajuato registered the highest number of organized crime related homicides with 2,673 cases, according to Reforma.

Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The violence is largely attributed to the battles between the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho.” The two have been in conflict since October 2017 when El Marro “declared war” on the CJNG over the control of fuel theft (huachicol) in Guanajuato, particularly in the municipalities of León, Irapuato, Salamanca, Celaya, and Los Apaseos, also known as the “Triángulo de las Bermúdas.” The control for the territory also lends itself to the cartels’ further control and involvement in drug tracking, kidnapping, and extortion. As Mexico’s most violent state, and with the battle between these two powerful cartels, there is also a large presence of high-power firearms in Guanajuato. El Universalreports that the “use of firearms is at a level not seen in any other state in the country.”

Government Response

Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretario de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC), Alfonso Durazo, announced the government’s new strategy to address the rising levels of violence in Guanajuato. On June 26, Durazo said that more federal troops would be sent to the state, a decision that was in the process of being made before El Marro took to social media to call for violent uprisings in response to his loved ones’ arrests. The Secretary said more information about how the federal and state security forces would work together would be detailed in the coming week.

Sources:

Lastiri, Diana. “Sedena reporta detención de madre y hermana de ‘El Marro.’” El Universal. June 21, 2020.

Lastiri, Diana. “El Marro’ vows to wreak havoc in Guanajuato after his family members were arrested.” El Universal. June 6, 2020.

Martínez, César. “Amarga ‘El Marro’ con más violencia en Guanajuato.” Reforma. June 21, 2020.

Oré, Diego. “Tearful Mexican cartel chief threatens government after mother’s detention.” Reuters. June 21, 2020.

López Ponce, Jannet and Mariana Ramos. “Liberan a papa de ‘El Marro’ en Guanajuato, tras pagar 10 mil pesos de fianza.” Milenio. June 26, 2020.

Monroy, Jorge. “Ante amenazas de ‘El Marro”, gobierno replantea estrategia en Guanajuato.” El Economista. June 26, 2020.

Arrieta, Carlos. “Choques entre CJNG y Santa Rosa dejan mil 179 asesinatos.” El Universal. June 27, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro.” Grupo Reforma. Last accessed June 29, 2020.