WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Wednesday announced more than 750 arrests after a six-month investigation targeting Mexico’s violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel, known as CJNG.
The Drug Enforcement Administration-led operation, called "Project Python," is the largest to date in U.S. efforts to take down the notorious drug dealing organization now considered one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico and known for brutal kidnappings and murders in that country.
In addition to the nationwide arrests, agents seized more than 20 kilograms of drugs and $20 million in cash. Officials say the cartel has hubs in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta and is a major presence on the Southwest border.
"CJNG has contributed to a catastrophic trail of human and physical destruction in Mexico," said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczowski. “It is the most well-armed cartel in Mexico. Its members willingly confront rival cartels and even the security forces of the Mexican government. CJNG is responsible for grisly acts of violence and loss of life."
Officials say CJNG is responsible for trafficking tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States.
“By removing mid- and high-level members, we inhibit CJNG’s ability to regenerate and to continue to threaten our communities and neighborhoods with their deadly presence,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon.
“They are one of the most prolific drug traffickers, trafficking organizations in the world," he continued. "They have over 100 methamphetamine labs in Mexico, and this country is being flooded with methamphetamine.”
Dhillon called it phase one of “Project Python” and said intelligence gathered from arrests and search warrants will aid agents in continuing what he referred to as a “relentless” attack on the cartel.
The undisputed boss of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho," is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine in the U.S. and is considered one of law enforcement’s most wanted fugitives. The DEA has a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
In a new, superseding indictment announced Wednesday, Oseguera Cervantes is charged with running a continuing criminal enterprise. The court documents allege CJNG carries out “numerous acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings, assassinations, and acts of torture.”
The announcements come several weeks after prosecutors brought charges against two of Oseguera Cervantes’ children.
Rubén Oseguera González, 30, known as "EL Menchito," was arrested by Mexico’s army in 2015 on drug trafficking charges but spent several years fighting extradition to the U.S. That ended last month when a judge dismissed his lawyer’s latest objections, and he was flown to the U.S. to appear in a Washington courtroom.
Oseguera González, considered second in command of CJNG under his father before his arrest, pleaded not guilty to charges of distributing large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine in the U.S. between 2007 and 2017, as well as using a gun in the commission of a drug crime. He is being held without bail.
Just a week later, his sister Jessica Johanna Oseguera González, 33, known as “La Negra,” was arrested at the same federal courthouse by DEA agents while on her way to attend her brother’s court hearing. She is charged with having financial dealings with five businesses blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department because they allegedly provide financial support to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
According to authorities, she is a dual U.S.-Mexico citizen who had been living in Guadalajara, Mexico, prior to her arrest and was one of CJNG’s primary money launderers. She has pleaded not guilty.
The DEA estimates CJNG has a presence in at least 24 of Mexico’s 32 states.