US freeze assets of top drug cartel leader with ties to Los Zetas
April 12th 2012 · 9 Comments
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designated Guatemalan national Horst Walter Overdick Mejia, as a narco trafficker with dangerous ties to Colombian and Mexican Los Zetas drug cartels.
The action taken by the U.S. government falls under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) that prohibits U.S. citizens from managing any financial or commercial transactions with Mr. Overdick Mejia and moved to freeze any assets within U.S. jurisdiction.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Guatemalan national a kingpin after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed Overdick Mejia’s indictment for narcotics trafficking, money laundering as well as firearms activities.
The Guatemalan authorities arrested Overdick Mejia on April 3. Authorities charged the leader of Guatemalan’s principal drug trafficking organization with multiple drug-related crimes.
A statement from the DEA alleges Overdick Mejia was “a veteran spice buyer, that he used his local contacts and his business acumen to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine to Mexico and on into the United States.” Informants and officials contend Overdick Mejia was responsible for introducing Los Zetas into Guatemala sometime in 2008. Authorities also revealed the kingpin wanted to eliminate a fellow drug trafficker who became Guatemala’s most influential ally. The drug kingpin is also suspected of laundering millions of U.S. dollars in illicit narcotics sales generated by both of his cartel affiliations.
U.S. federal agencies have stepped up their drug cartel enforcement and added new tools that will enable federal agents to indict kingpins and confiscate their assets. This drug trafficker exhibited a knack for moving drugs between countries easily and laundering funds effectively.
“By designating Overdick Mejia, OFAC is demonstrating its support for the Guatemalan government in its struggle against the threats and violence posed by these international drug gangs,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. “Overdick Mejia’s drug trafficking activities and close ties to the Los Zetas makes him a dangerous and critical figure in the Central American narcotics trade.”
The high-value drug cartel designation/sanction was attributed to the cooperation between the DEA and OFAC agencies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also played a role in the successful apprehension of Overdick Mejia.
“Today’s action is part of ongoing efforts pursuant to the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide,” the DEA explained. “The Treasury Department has designated more than 1,000 individuals and entities pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000.”
Under Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act, financial penalties can be $1.075 million per violation. The criminal penalties for corporate cartel officers include a 30-year prison sentence and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations knowingly working with drug cartels can reach $10 million and other individuals involved with narco traffickers face up to 10 years in prison.
A version of this column originally appeared in www.examiner.com.
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