By Samuel Rubenfeld
Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday it slapped Kingpin Act sanctions on nine entities and 10 individuals linked to a leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.
Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, also known as El Azul, has used money from his involvement in the drug trade to build a network of businesses that includes a housing development, a shopping mall and an industrial park, Treasury said.
“While other Mexican narcotics traffickers have garnered and in some cases sought more attention, Esparragoza Moreno has purposely kept a low profile hoping to avoid scrutiny while increasing his influence and ill-gotten gains,” said Adam J. Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement. “His entire corporate network that was created with illicit drug proceeds is in our sights.”
El Azul, whom Treasury said has been active in the drug trade since the 1970s, was identified in 2003 under the Kingpin Act as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker. Sinaloa was identified in 2009.
He was indicted on drug-trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in 2003, and is wanted in both the U.S. and Mexico, Treasury said.
The U.S. State Department Narcotics Rewards Program is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to El Azul’s arrest, while Mexican authorities are offering 30 million pesos for information leading to his capture.
Six of the 10 individuals placed under sanctions Tuesday are members of El Azul’s family–two of his wives and four of his children. One of the wives owns property on his behalf. She, along with the four children she had with him who were sanctioned Tuesday, own and operate two companies that manage the property, where they developed a residential community and a shopping mall, Treasury said. One of the companies also manages an industrial park.
The other wife, along with three others, were slapped with sanctions for owning or controlling seven gas stations on El Azul’s behalf, Treasury said.