U.S. Treasury Sanctions Financial Operatives Linked to Los Zetas

By Dialogo
July 25, 2013

On July 23, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned two Mexican nationals, Jose Odilon Ramirez Perales and Ismael Lopez Guerrero, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for their ties to Mexico’s violent Los Zetas drug trafficking organization.

Ramirez Perales is a powerful financial operative responsible for controlling and laundering tens of millions of dollars in funds smuggled from the U.S. to Mexico for Los Zetas leaders Miguel Treviño Morales and Omar Treviño Morales. Lopez Guerrero collects illicit monies from Los Zetas operations in Nuevo Laredo, and he sends large quantities of smuggled cash to Ramirez Perales for safeguarding and processing in Coahuila, Mexico.

“The momentous arrest of Miguel Treviño Morales, who was captured [on July 15], took place in the early morning hours with two of his closest advisors by his side, including a key accountant. This is another clear example of the central importance of financial operatives within the operational structure of drug cartels,” said Treasury’s Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Adam J. Szubin. “The Treasury’s action targets the activities of two other significant financial operatives for Los Zetas. We will continue to support our Mexican partners to target those laundering Los Zetas’ ill-gotten gains.”

Ramirez Perales is wanted in the Southern District of Texas for money laundering relating to drug trafficking. Ramirez Perales and his other co-defendants are subject to the forfeiture of approximately $20 million in the Southern District of Texas. In October 2012, Mexican authorities captured Ramirez Perales, and they arrested Lopez Guerrero after a July 2012 gun battle. Lopez Guerrero, who uses the alias Gilberto Godina Guerrero, was alleged to possess ammunition, drugs, and currency at the time of his arrest. The arrests of these individuals and other high level Los Zetas members such as Miguel Treviño Morales, along with the death of former Zeta leader Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano, has played a vital role in weakening of the organization.

The sanction generally prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with these individuals and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

President Obama identified Los Zetas as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act in April 2009. On July 24, 2011, the President named Los Zetas as a significant Transnational Criminal Organization in the Annex to Executive Order 13581 (Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations). Additionally, OFAC designated Los Zetas leaders Miguel and Omar Treviño Morales on July 20, 2009 and March 24, 2010, respectively. Since 2009, OFAC has designated several dozen key plaza bosses, drug traffickers, and money launderers operating on behalf of Los Zetas using Kingpin Act authorities.