Treasury sanctions Mexican heroin cartel

Treasury sanctions Mexican heroin cartel
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The Treasury Department on Thursday targeted a Mexican drug cartel and the three brothers who run it, freezing their assets and banning American people and institutions from doing business with them.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Job, Ismael and Ruben Laredo Donjuan as Specifically Designated Narcotics Traffickers, along with the Laredo Drug Trafficking Organization (Laredo DTO).

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That distinction could lead to millions in fines and years in jail.

Laredo DTO has manufactured, imported and distributed heroin within the United States since 2008, according to Thursday’s announcement, and two of the brothers have faced federal organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

"The Laredo‎ Drug Trafficking Organization is responsible for contributing to the drug epidemic and troubling rise of heroin abuse in this country,” said John E. Smith, OFAC Acting Director. "Treasury is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to dismantle criminal organizations that facilitate the flow of illicit drugs into the United States.”

Treasury’s action comes as the US grapples with opioid abuse across the country. A record 28,000 people died from heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the epidemic has become a major presidential campaign issue, particularly in hard-hit New Hampshire and Ohio.

The Senate approved $600 million in emergency funding to fight the epidemic in March by a 94-1 vote. Only Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) opposed it, saying he wasn’t sure drug abuse was best fought by the federal government. The bill is waiting for House consideration.