The United States (US) Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken action against a cryptocurrency wallet believed to have links with a significant international criminal organisation.
In a statement released on 26 September, the US Treasury announced sanctions against 10 individuals, several of whom have connections to the Sinaloa Cartel.
One of the individuals targeted is Mexican national Mario Alberto Jimenez Castro, for his involvement in smuggling the potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl, into the US through cryptocurrency channels, specifically with an Ethereum wallet.
The US Treasury stated:
“[Jimenez Castro] reports directly to a Chapitos deputy and operates a money laundering organisation that uses virtual currency and wire transfers, among other methods, to transfer proceeds from illicit fentanyl sales in the United States to Sinaloa Cartel leaders in Mexico. Jimenez Castro has directed US-based couriers to pick up cash in the United States and deposit it into various virtual currency wallets for payment directly to the Chapitos and for reinvestment in fentanyl production.”
This enforcement includes the addition of Mario’s Ethereum address to OFAC’s list of specially designated nationals.
Fentanyl and similar opioids have become the leading cause of death among US adults, with 80,411 American fatalities attributed to them in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available.
As a result of these sanctions, Mario and his associates’ assets in the US will be frozen, and US citizens are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with him.
Furthermore, the government has made his Ethereum wallet address public, facilitating potential tracking of cryptocurrency transfers or trades.
Data from Etherscan indicates that, at the time of this report, the wallet held approximately 0.018 Ether, equivalent to $28.22, with its most recent activity dating back over 200 days.
It is noteworthy that OFAC’s latest sanctions exclusively targeted this particular wallet address, and the Treasury has attributed these actions to combat “illicit fentanyl trafficking,” a matter closely related to the ongoing opioid crisis in the US.
The Sinaloa Cartel, with ties to drug trafficking and global money laundering, has a history of using virtual assets to obscure the origin of their financial resources.
Brian E Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, expressed on X (formerly known as Twitter):
“Today’s actions show that Treasury and the Administration will continue to relentlessly target the criminal enterprises threatening international security and flooding our communities with fentanyl and other deadly drugs.”
Those who seek to misuse digital currencies for unlawful purposes will be identified and held accountable.
He also stressed the administration’s collective commitment to global security and the prevention of deadly narcotics.
This enforcement action is not an isolated incident; it symbolises the broader dedication of the US government to shield its citizens from the detrimental impacts of substances like fentanyl.
Furthermore, it conveys a resounding message to cartels and illicit organisations that, as trade and transaction methods evolve, so do the strategies of authorities.