WASHINGTON - The U.S. State, Justice and Treasury Departments launched a coordinated drive on Monday against Mexico's Gulf/Los Zetas drug cartel, including new indictments and an asset freeze.
The Justice Department unveiled new drug trafficking charges against the four suspected leaders and 15 other members of the cartel -- dubbed the Company by U.S. officials, while the State Department announced rewards totaling $50 million for information leading to their capture.
Several of the men named in the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn already face drug trafficking charges in federal courts in Washington and Texas.
The U.S. Treasury Department said it was putting the four suspected leaders on a special sanctions list to try to clamp down on drug dealing and violence.
Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said the four were being named Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, freezing any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction and making them or anyone who does business with them subject to penalties.
They include Jorge Eduardo Costilla-Sanchez and Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen, who Treasury says are leaders of the Gulf Cartel. The agency named Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales as leaders of Los Zetas, which Treasury said historically operated as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel.
These indictments allege a stunning and sophisticated operation by the Company to move illegal drugs into our communities and cash back to Mexico, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement.
Today's coordinated actions by the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury will serve not only to bring these individuals to justice, but also to significantly slow the flow of cash that is so vital to cartel operations, he said.
The indictment named the four alleged leaders and 15 of the cartel's suspected subordinates on charges of bringing cocaine and marijuana into the United States.
Prosecutors named Trevino Morales as a principal leader of the organization. Cardenas-Guillen, Costilla-Sanchez and Lazcano-Lazcano are members of a governing council that headed the cartel's operations, prosecutors said.
The three governing council members directed the Company's cocaine and marijuana shipments from Colombia and Venezuela to destinations in Guatemala and Mexico, according to the indictment. The drugs were shipped into cities in Texas for distribution to other U.S. cities, officials said.
Treasury said the Gulf Cartel was identified in 2007 as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under a law called the Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, or Kingpin Act. It said the cartel had smuggled and distributed cocaine and marijuana in the United States.
(Reporting by Glenn Somerville in Washington and Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Peter Cooney)