Daughter of Mexican drug cartel leader pleads guilty to violating Kingpin Act
The daughter of a Mexican drug cartel leader, whose organization authorities say is responsible for smuggling much of the fentanyl and methamphetamine coming through Los Angeles, pleaded guilty Friday to doing business with companies linked to narcotics traffickers.
Jessica Johanna Oseguera Gonzalez, 34, who was born in California and moved to Mexico while in high school, entered her plea in federal court in Washington. She was charged with breaking a law known as the Kingpin Act, which makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to do business with an entity that the Treasury Department has identified as having supported drug traffickers.
She is the daughter of Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, who is the leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel and is also known as “El Mencho.” A former Mexican policeman, Oseguera Cervantes is one of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted fugitives and the subject of a $10-million bounty.
In the agency’s annual threat assessment, released this month, the DEA said the Jalisco New Generation cartel is one of two dominant drug trafficking groups in Mexico, along with the Sinaloa cartel formerly led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
The Jalisco group smuggles fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States primarily through the border cities of Tijuana, Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, the DEA says. Most of the fentanyl and methamphetamine trafficked through Los Angeles comes from Jalisco New Generation, the agency says.
Since 2015, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has sanctioned more than 100 businesses and people for providing support to Oseguera Cervantes and his brother-in-law, Abigael Gonzalez Valencia, who American officials say is the leader of another drug trafficking group, Los Cuinis.
The sanctioned businesses, which were suspected of being used to launder the organizations’ drug proceeds, include shopping centers, a luxury coastal hotel, a music promotion company and a Mexico City newspaper, U.S. officials said.
U.S. prosecutors linked Oseguera Gonzalez to five of these companies: an advertising business, an agricultural collective, a vacation cabin rental business, a sushi restaurant and a tequila company. Oseguera Gonzalez had “extensive business dealings” with the companies, all of which were in Mexico, a prosecutor said at a detention hearing.
Oseguera Gonzalez, a resident of Guadalajara, has been detained since February 2020, when she traveled to Washington to attend a court hearing for her brother, Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, who had been extradited from Mexico on drug trafficking and firearms charges.
Upon entering the courthouse, Jessica Oseguera Gonzalez was arrested by agents and told that she had been indicted, her attorney wrote in a court filing. Her prosecution arose from an investigation led by DEA agents in Los Angeles, agency officials said.
Oseguera Gonzalez pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of engaging in transactions with entities designated as having supported her father’s criminal organization. A judge scheduled her sentencing for June 11. According to her plea agreement, she faces a guideline range of 51 to 63 months in prison.
Bill Bodner, the special agent who leads the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, said in a statement that Oseguera Gonzalez’s conviction on Office of Foreign Asset Control violations shows the agency was prepared to use “all the investigative tools available” to apply pressure on people and businesses who facilitate drug trafficking operations.
The DEA said in its threat assessment that the Jalisco New Generation and Sinaloa cartels are suspected of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic, which briefly disrupted supply chains for components of synthetic drugs, to inflate the wholesale price of methamphetamine in the United States. The groups may have intentionally withheld regular shipments of the drug, then raised its price, the DEA report says.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the wholesale price of methamphetamine in Los Angeles soared from $900 to $1,800 a pound, a drug enforcement official said.
An indictment unsealed last month in federal court in San Jose quoted a wiretap that captured Northern California dealers gleefully discussing the rising prices of methamphetamine.
“You do not even know, dude,” one San Jose dealer told an associate. “We’re gonna be the super dupers.”
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