An alleged Mexican drug cartel leader has been charged in connection with heroin and fentanyl trafficking, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed in San Diego on Wednesday.
Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas, 51, of Sinaloa, Mexico, is the leader of one of the largest raw opium gum and heroin sources in northern Mexico, as well as a major distributor of fentanyl, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Gonzalez Penuelas -- also known as Chuy Gonzalez -- remains at large and is also facing charges from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado, prosecutors said.
Officials say his organization largely operates in Sinaloa and Sonora, Mexico, as well as various ports of entry in the United States and U.S.-based distribution cells in California, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Nevada. The cartel also works with other drug trafficking operations in Mexico by acting as enforcement on trafficking routes, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The indictment, which was returned in 2017, charges Gonzalez Penuelas with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances intended for importation and conspiracy to import controlled substances.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury also announced sanctions against Gonzalez Penuelas, identifying him and his organization as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
"Treasury is targeting those criminal leaders such as Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas and organizations that help fuel our nation's opioid epidemic," said Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The Treasury Department said Gonzalez Penuelas has been the leader of an independent methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin production and distribution organization since at least 2007 and oversees heroin processing laboratories in Sinaloa. The department's sanctions also target two of Gonzalez Penuelas' brothers, along with other Mexican nationals identified as key figures within the organization.
"This indictment and the Treasury Department sanctions announced today show that the Department of Justice, together with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate and prosecute the most significant cartels and kingpins who import illegal drugs into the United States," Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said.