DOJ Busts Mexican Cartel for Fentanyl Trafficking

April 14, 2023

The Department of Justice on Friday announced criminal charges against 28 members of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel in a broad investigation into fentanyl trafficking.

Among those charged were three sons of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was sentenced to life in prison in the U.S. in 2019.

El Chapo’s sons—Ovidio Guzmán López, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar—are known as the “Chapitos,” or Little Chapos. Along with the alleged cartel members, alleged chemical suppliers, lab managers, fentanyl traffickers, security leaders, financiers and weapons traffickers were also criminally charged.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the charges while standing alongside several top federal prosecutors, including Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Anne Milgram.

“Families and communities across our country are being devastated by the Fentanyl epidemic,” Garland said. “From August 2021 to August 2022, 107,735 people died of drug overdoses in the United States. Two thirds of those deaths involve synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.”

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC further states that most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets, and it is often added to other drugs, making those drugs “cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.”

The CDC also echoes Garland in saying that fentanyl overdoses killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. in 2022.

The DEA has called fentanyl “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.” 

Garland’s announcement came after the Biden Administration on Tuesday unveiled a new initiative targeting the supply chain for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. That was one day after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that members of his country’s security cabinet would travel to the United States to meet with U.S. officials about fentanyl trafficking.

However, López Obrador on Monday reiterated his past insistance that no fentanyl is being synthesized inside Mexico—a claim the DEA disputes.

“The Sinaloa cartel is largely responsible for the surge of fentanyl into the United States over the last eight years,” Garland said on Friday. “That surge is the result of a complex and comprehensive fentanyl manufacturing and trafficking network orchestrated by the cartel.” 

Garland said the indictment was unsealed Friday in the Southern District of New York.

Eight of those charged in Friday’s fentanyl case have been arrested and remain in custody of law enforcement officials outside of the U.S. The federal government is offering rewards for several others charged in the case.

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