The Justice Department on Friday announced charges unsealed against 28 members of the Sinaloa Cartel, including the sons of drug trafficker Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, as part of an extensive investigation into fentanyl trafficking.
“Today, the Justice Department is announcing significant enforcement actions against the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world – run by the Sinaloa Cartel, and fueled by Chinese precursor chemical and pharmaceutical companies,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Families and communities across our country are being devastated by the fentanyl epidemic. Today’s actions demonstrate the comprehensive approach the Justice Department is taking to disrupt fentanyl trafficking and save American lives.”
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The Sinaloa Cartel is one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world and is largely responsible for the manufacturing and importing of fentanyl for distribution in the United States, the Justice Department said.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more than 50 times more potent than heroin, and is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49. Between 2019 and 2021, fatal overdoses increased by approximately 94%, with an estimated 196 Americans dying each day from fentanyl.
The Sinaloa Cartel operated as an affiliation of drug traffickers and money launderers who obtain precursor chemicals – largely from China – for the manufacture of synthetic drugs, the DOJ said. The cartel makes the drugs in Mexico, and moves those drugs into the United States.
Once led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo, and Ismael Zambada Garcia, aka El Mayo, the Sinaloa Cartel’s members and associates – allegedly including the sons of Guzman Loera, collectively known as the Chapitos – smuggled significant quantities of drugs through Mexico and into the United States. The Chapitos are Ivan Guzman Salazar, 40, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 37, Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 36, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 33.
Following Guzman Loera’s arrest in January 2016 and extradition to the United States in January 2017, the Chapitos allegedly assumed their father’s former role as leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, along with Zambada Garcia and Damaso Lopez Nunez, aka Licenciado. The Chapitos amassed greater control over the Sinaloa Cartel by allegedly threatening and causing violence against Lopez Nunez, his family, and his associates and, as a result, became principal leaders and drug traffickers within the Sinaloa Cartel.
The indictments allege that the Sinaloa Cartel has been engaged in drug trafficking activities into the United States, and violence, spanning over a decade and a half. The Chapitos are alleged to have transported lethal amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
The Chapitos allegedly used cargo aircraft, private aircraft, submarines and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, supply vessels, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, automobiles, and private and commercial interstate and foreign carriers to transport their drugs and precursor chemicals. They allegedly maintained a network of couriers, tunnels, and stash houses throughout Mexico and the United States to further their drug-trafficking activities. The Chapitos allegedly used these networks to import the drugs into the United States.