Treasury Targets Major Mexican Heroin Trafficking Organization

Action Targets Ruelas Torres Drug Trafficking Organization, a Key Heroin Producer and Distributor

Washington – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today identified Mexican national Jose Luis Ruelas Torres and the Ruelas Torres Drug Trafficking Organization (Ruelas Torres DTO) as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers  pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  Jose Luis Ruelas Torres is the leader of the Ruelas Torres DTO, a family-based, independent opium and heroin production and distribution organization that smuggles multi-kilogram heroin quantities into the United States.  OFAC is also designating ten key Ruelas Torres DTO associates as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in the organization.  As a result of today’s action, all assets of those designated that are based in the United States or that are in the control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

“Jose Luis Ruelas Torres and his drug trafficking organization are major contributors to our nation’s heroin epidemic,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “The Ruelas Torres Drug Trafficking Organization smuggles heroin from Mexico into the U.S. for distribution in cities from Los Angeles to New York City This action will hinder their ability to move and use the illicit proceeds from this activity.  OFAC and its partners in the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Mexican government are committed to exposing, disrupting, and dismantling these criminal networks.”

The Ruelas Torres DTO is composed of Jose Luis Ruelas Torres’s immediate and extended family members, and has been involved in manufacturing, importing, and distributing heroin from Sinaloa, Mexico to the United States for well over two decades, as well as moving laundered drug proceeds from the United States to Mexico.  Jose Luis Ruelas Torres and his criminal organization distribute heroin to various cities throughout the United States, including Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Columbus, Detroit, and New York City.  The Ruelas Torres DTO is aligned with Mexican drug trafficker Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, a.k.a. “Chapito Isidro”, who OFAC previously designated in January 2013.

In 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado charged 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.  The indictment also charged Hector Librado Rivera Sandoval, Toribio Alberto Lugo Leon, and Jose Carlos Barraza Aceves with multiple charges related to narcotics trafficking, and Maria de Jesus Espinoza Rodriguez with several drug and money laundering charges.  All of these individuals are designated today.  In addition, the OFAC action targets Gilberto Ruelas Torres, Sigi Alfredo Mondaca Avila, Jesus Angel Ruelas Avila, Jose Luis Ruelas Avila, and Leobardo Ruelas Avila, for their activities related to the Ruelas Torres DTO.

OFAC, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Mexican authorities worked closely to execute today’s action.

“The joint efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration and OFAC represents a sustained effort to combat foreign drug trafficking organizations or those acting on behalf of them, from doing business via the United States. Such sanctions serve as one of the most important, yet multi-faceted avenues with which U.S. law enforcement can effectively and efficiently disrupt and dismantle major international drug trafficking organizations and anyone doing business with them,” said Barbara Roach, DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Denver Field Division.

Since June 2000, more than 2,000 entities and individuals have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,437,153 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million.  Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.  Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to the Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.