In a Landmark Ruling, Mexican Court Upholds U.S. Forfeiture Order Authorizing Seizure of Drug Cartel Leader’s Real Estate
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For the first time, a Mexican court has invoked its new civil forfeiture law to authorize the forfeiture of real property located in and around Guadalajara, Mexico pursuant to a request for mutual legal assistance from the United States. The forfeiture represents the United States’ groundbreaking use of Mexico’s new statute to divest drug cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero of ill-gotten gains. Caro Quintero is indicted in the Eastern District of New York for leading a continuing criminal enterprise and related crimes. He is currently in custody in Mexico and extradition proceedings are ongoing.
The forfeited properties, described in the civil forfeiture order issued by U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano on April 15, 2021, were purchased by Rafael Caro Quintero with drug proceeds generated by the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, an affiliate of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Anne Milgram, Administrator, United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the seizure and forfeiture order of the Mexican Court.
“This forfeiture sends a powerful message to drug kingpins in Mexico and elsewhere that there are no boundaries to prosecuting bad actors and locating their ill-gotten assets wherever they are in the world,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This Office will continue working with our law enforcement partners to take the economic gain out of crime through all available resources, including asset forfeiture.”
“For over thirty years, the men and women of the DEA have worked tirelessly to bring Rafael Caro Quintero to justice for his violent and ruthless acts,” said Administrator Milgram. “Today’s order— authorizing the forfeiture of Caro Quintero’s properties in Mexico— demonstrates that DEA agents will follow the evidence wherever it leads to hold drug traffickers fully accountable for their deadly crimes.”
According to the forfeiture complaint, between January 1980 and March 2015, the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization was involved in the transportation of multi-ton quantities of marijuana, multi-kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine from Mexico to the United States. As part of its investigation, law enforcement learned that Caro Quintero used proceeds from the sale of illegal narcotics to purchase real estate in and around his home area of Guadalajara. Caro Quintero allegedly placed the properties in the names of family members to conceal his ownership of the properties and use of illegal proceeds to purchase them, and to prevent Mexican authorities from seizing them.
Mr. Peace extended his appreciation to the DEA New York Division Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Strike Force, as well as the DEA Raleigh Resident Office, the DEA Los Angeles Office and the DEA Mexico City Country Office for their assistance with the case.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Asset Recovery Section and International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorney Brendan G. King is in charge of the forfeiture action.
The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in this case. The Department also appreciates the significant cooperation and assistance provided by the Mexican authorities.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CV-5748 (ENV)