Mexican drug kingpin federally indicted in Va.

A man the U.S. government has identified as a narcotics kingpin and top lieutenant in the Sinaloa drug cartel has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia, accused of helping deal more than $280 million in drugs.

U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia; Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, and Karl Colder, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington division office, announced the charges Thursday after the indictment was unsealed.

Damaso Lopez Nunez, 47, of Mexico, who also is known as “El Licensiado,” was indicted on Nov. 23, 2011, and accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine and conspiring to commit money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.

On Jan. 9, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Mr. Lopez Nunez under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designated person and freezes all assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction. According to OFAC, Mr. Lopez Nunez is a top lieutenant of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera of the Sinaloa Cartel.

U.S. authorities said Mr. Lopez Nunez helped Guzman Loera escape from Mexican federal prison in 2001. He has since become one of the top lieutenants of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is responsible for multiple-ton shipments of narcotics from Mexico into the United States.

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