By Associated PressMEXICO CITY — The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it has imposed sanctions on relatives of Sinaloa cartel drug lord Juan Jose Esparragoza who allegedly run gas stations, a shopping mall, a housing development and an industrial park in Mexico that invested or laundered drug money.
Six of the people named are wives or children of Esparragoza, alias “El Azul” or “The Blue One.” The department said he had at least two wives.
Nine companies and four other individuals were also been named under the U.S. Drug Kingpin act. The measure prohibits people in the U.S. from doing business with named people, whose U.S. assets are also frozen.
The department called Esparragoza a “godfather of Mexican narcotics” and said he had “kept a low profile in hopes of avoiding scrutiny.”
Esparragoza himself was already named on the list.
The sales manager for the housing development mentioned in the Treasury Department report, Provenza Residencial, denied that the business had any links to Esparragoza or his family.
“This is a myth that our competitors have come up with,” sales manager Jorge Romero said. “The owners (of the development) are two companies that have got nothing to do with this.”
Romero said the accusations may have arisen because part of the land where the development was built may have once been owned by Esparragoza.
Romero said Mexican investigators had looked into the project when the two companies began building it in the mid-2000s. “We opened up everything ... and they didn’t find anything at all,” Romero said.
Mexican investigators have expressed some frustration about U.S. public announcements of kingpin designations, because U.S. officials usually do not provide the evidence Mexican prosecutors need to bring charges against the suspected cartel associates in Mexican courts.
Authorities believe Esparragoza is an ally of the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the world’s most-wanted men.
The Sinaloa cartel is locked in a fight for smuggling routes against the Zetas drug gang that has left thousands dead.
One of the fiercest battles among the two gangs is being fought in the border state of Nuevo Leon, where a shootout among gunmen on Tuesday left seven people dead in a residential area of the Monterrey suburb of Juarez.
Four people were found inside a house in the Monteverde neighborhood, two on the street and one inside a car, said a state police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
Police also found the body of a woman who had been shot in the head several times, the official said.
The official said police are still trying to determine if the killing of the woman is related to the killings in Juarez.