Photo: Adelmo Niebla Gonzalez
A high-level member of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel was arrested by the Federal Police, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Adelmo Niebla Gonzalez was captured last Thursday in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, thanks to intelligence work, the secretariat said.
Investigators have determined that Niebla Gonzalez smuggled different types of drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, from various places in Mexico into the United States via the Arizona desert, the secretariat said.
Niebla Gonzalez was also involved in smuggling firearms into Mexico, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
“There is information that he established himself more than 20 years ago in Sonoyta, Sonora, where he started his criminal career by helping migrants cross illegally into the United States via the border zone. He was arrested and deported to Mexico for this reason by authorities in that country on various occasions,” the secretariat said in a statement.
Niebla Gonzalez formed his own criminal organization, known as Los Memos, and set up operations in Sonoyta, smuggling drugs into the United States and becoming a top operative for Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman.
Los Memos has a strong presence in Sonora, a border state in northwest Mexico, and works with other gangs allied with the Sinaloa cartel.
Niebla Gonzalez’s arrest was made on the same day that the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, included Griselda Lopez Perez, Guzman’s second wife, on the drug kingpin list.
“Today marks the third time in the past five months that OFAC has targeted family members who act on behalf of Chapo Guzman,” OFAC director Adam J. Szubin said in a statement.
“This is another strike against the brutal Sinaloa Cartel and Chapo’s wife, who has served as a major criminal facilitator on his behalf,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration financial operations chief John Arvanitis said.
The U.S. Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, known as the Kingpin Act, prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with individuals included on the list and freezes any assets such individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Chapo Guzman has been on the list of U.S. drug kingpins since June 1, 2001.
The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.
The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and has an extensive drug distribution network in the United States.
Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001, is considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.
Chapo Guzman tops the list of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals and is on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.