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Increasing Pressure on Mexican Heroin Traffickers


Mar 20, 2018

The United States continues to methodically target the individuals and businesses who profit from the sale heroin.

Most recently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC,

imposed additional sanctions on eight Mexican individuals and eight Mexican companies linked to the Sinaloa-based criminal organization, which has been led by Joel Efren Ruelas Avila since the 2017 death of his father Jose Luis Ruelas Torres.

Soldiers destroy poppy plants used to make heroin during a military operation in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. (File)
Soldiers destroy poppy plants used to make heroin during a military operation in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. (File)

Under the Kingpin Act, Americans are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or otherwise dealing with these individuals and companies, and any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

The Ruelas Torres drug trafficking organization has been involved in the manufacture and distribution of heroin from Sinaloa, Mexico to the United States for generations. The Ruelas Torres drug trafficking organization is now led by Joel Efren Ruelas Avila and immediate family members who support narcotics trafficking activities, including money laundering or maintaining assets on behalf of the Ruelas Torres organization.

In 2015, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado charged Mexican national Jose Luis Ruelas Torres and his son Joel Efren Ruelas Avila with running a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, along with related narcotics trafficking and money laundering offenses.OFAC identified Mexican national Jose Luis Ruelas Torres and the Ruelas Torres organization as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act in May 2017. Mexican authorities arrested Jose Luis Ruelas Torres in April 2017, and he died in October 2017 while awaiting extradition to the United States. His son Joel Efren Ruelas Avila remains at large.

Sigal Mandelker is Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. She said, “Heroin use is an epidemic in the United States, fueled by smugglers like Joel Efren Ruelas Avila and his drug trafficking organization who bring deadly drugs across our Southern border and seek to launder illicit proceeds back into Mexico.”The U.S. will continue to target those who traffic in death and drugs.

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