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Former Cancun cell company fined by U.S. Treasury for fentanyl-related money laundering

Cancun, Q.R. — A former Cancun company has been singled out as part of a group known to launder money from the sale of fentanyl. The Cancun company, one of six around the country, was fined after a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The six companies are reported to have been part of a multi-million dollar black market scheme to launder illicit fentanyl proceeds for the Sinaloa Cartel.

On March 22, 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) fined six Mexican companies for fentanyl-related money laundering.

The sanctions were part of operatives in a Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE) scheme to launder millions in illicit fentanyl proceeds for the Sinaloa Cartel. The announcement was made by U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo alongside Arizona law enforcement leaders.

According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the OFAC designated 15 Sinaloa Cartel members, several of whom are fugitives, and six Mexico-based businesses pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059.

The Sinaloa Cartel, which is one of the most notorious and pervasive drug trafficking organizations in the world, is responsible for a significant portion of the illicit fentanyl and other deadly drugs trafficked into the United States.

Smart Depot was located in high-end Puerto Cancun.

“The Biden Administration will continue to use every tool at our disposal to target the violent drug cartels that profit from deadly fentanyl sales in our country,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo.

“Using Treasury’s unique authorities to disrupt illicit fentanyl networks, particularly in coordination with our law enforcement partners, are among Secretary Yellen and the Department’s top priorities.”

These sanctions supplement efforts by Treasury’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force, which leverages Treasury’s unique expertise and capabilities to interdict and disrupt the illicit financial networks upon which the cartels rely.

The recent sanctions are the result of collaboration with Phoenix and Scottsdale DEA Task Force who coordinated closely with the Government of Mexico, including La Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit.

The OFAC sanctioned Mexico-based cell phone business Smart Depot and several related actors including brothers Arturo D’Artagnan Marin Gonzalez and Porthos Marin Gonzalez, who are responsible for operating a BMPE scheme for the Sinaloa Cartel.

The company quickly announced its permanent closure after the U.S. investigation began.

In coordination with Sinaloa Cartel fentanyl suppliers, the Marin brothers brokered fentanyl sales in the United States and used the proceeds of the illicit sales, which were in bulk U.S. dollars, to purchase cell phones from U.S. companies.

After the phones were transported to Mexico, they were sold in Smart Depot stores located in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mazatlan, Sinaloa and Cancun. As Smart Depot thrived and expanded, the Sinaloa Cartel traffickers received their illicit proceeds in their national currency.

The OFAC also fined four businesses established by Adilene Robledo and Ivan Robledo for using illicit drug proceeds and Smart Depot profits.

Based in Culiacan, Sinaloa, the businesses include Bufaluss and Dulce Volcan, which are involved in food services, as well as clothing/formalwear retailers, Royal Room Dress and Total Look.

In April 2023, a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York returned an indictment charging numerous Sinaloa Cartel members, including Alan Nunez and Jesus Tirado, with a variety of drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons-related charges.

On August 4, 2022, DEA Phoenix seized approximately 1,175,000 fentanyl pills supplied by Rolando Verduzco in the Phoenix area.
Photo: DEA Phoenix

To date, Alan Nunez and Jesus Tirado are fugitives. Through its Narcotics Rewards Program, the U.S. Department of State offers rewards of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrests and/or convictions of Alan Nunez and Jesus Tirado.