SAN DIEGO (CN) – In the second high-profile drug case out of San Diego in a week, the U.S. assets of a suspected Guadalajara, Mexico, drug-trafficking leader were frozen by the Department of Treasury Wednesday following his indictment by a Southern California grand jury.
Raul Flores Hernandez, along with 21 suspected criminal associates and 42 businesses and entities were designated Wednesday by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The action against the Flores Drug Trafficking Organization is the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican cartel network, according to the Department of Treasury.
The department froze all U.S. assets belonging to Flores Hernandez and his associates Wednesday following the Kingpin sanction.
Mexican officials also seized assets belonging to Flores Hernandez on Wednesday, including the Grand Casino in Guadalajara. Mexican soccer club Club Deportivo Morumbi was among the bars, restaurants, tourism, and music production companies also sanctioned under the Kingpin Act.
A grand jury in San Diego indicted Flores Hernandez on March 17, but the charge accusing him of moving large amounts of cocaine from South America to Mexico was not unsealed until July 20, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He faces a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence and up to life in prison if convicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute. Flores Hernandez could also be ordered to pay up to a $10 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Wednesday’s sanctions follow a years-long investigation into Flores Hernandez and his cartel by multiple U.S. and Mexican agencies, according to the Department of Treasury.
Mexican professional soccer player Rafael Marquez Alvarez and Mexican singer Julio Cesar Alvarez Montelongo aka Julion Alvarez were also sanctioned Wednesday for their ties to Hernandez Flores.
Authorities believe Marquez and Alvarez have longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, acting as front men for the cartel and holding assets on its behalf, according to the Department of Treasury.
Marquez was a defender for Barcelona, Monaco, and the New York Red Bulls. He currently plays for the Guadalajara soccer club Atlas, and is captain of the Mexican national team.
“Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director John Smith said in a statement.
Prosecutors say Hernandez Flores has been able to operate his drug trafficking organization for decades by maintaining strategic alliances with the leadership of other Mexican drug cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel.