Guatemalan national Horst Walter Overdick Mejia, described by U.S. law enforcement authorities as a "critical link" in the drug trade between Colombian producers and the violent Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, has been named by the State Department as a "specially designated narcotics trafficker."
The designation, under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, prohibits U.S. persons and corporations from conducting financial or commercial transactions with this person and freezes any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Last week, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment naming Overdick Mejia on charges of narcotics trafficking and firearms violations. He was arrested April 3 in Guatemala and accused of being the head of a major drug trafficking and money laundering organization based in Guatemala.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials described Overdick Mejia as a veteran spice buyer who used his local contacts and his legitimate business acumen to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine to Mexico and on into the United States.
Many authorities blame Overdick Mejia for bringing Los Zetas into Guatemala in 2008 to eliminate a competing trafficker and later becoming their most important ally in Guatemala. He also laundered millions of U.S. dollars in narcotics proceeds generated by both his own organization as well as Los Zetas, the authorities said.
"These are necessary tools we use to ensure that we put dangerous drug trafficking organizations out of business and ensure they cannot exploit the U.S. financial system," said John Arvanitis, DEA chief of financial operations. "Overdick Mejia was a vital link between Colombian drug producers and Mexican cartels such as Los Zetas.
"This case is yet another example of the united front that law enforcement and regulators must utilize to ensure that organizations such as this one are put out of business forever," he said.
Adam J. Szubin, Treasury's director of the office of foreign assets control (OFAC), said Overdick Mejia's drug trafficking activities and close ties to the Los Zetas "makes him a dangerous and critical figure in the Central American narcotics trade.
"By designating Overdick Mejia, OFAC is demonstrating its support for the Guatemalan government in its struggle against the threats and violence posed by these international drug gangs," he said.
DEA and OFAC coordinated the Overdick Mejia designation action with federal prosecutors in New York. The action was part of ongoing efforts involving the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide. The Treasury Department has designated more than 1,000 persons and entities under the Kingpin Act since June 2000.
Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from fines of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Others face up to 10 years in prison and fines.
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