Brooklyn federal court uses new Mexican law to seize drug cartel’s real estate in Mexico

November 23, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A new Mexican law allowed prosecutors in Brooklyn to seize real property located in and around Guadalajara, Mexico, to divest a drug cartel leader of his ill-gotten gains.

Rafael Caro Quintero, an accused drug cartel leader, is currently in custody in Mexico and extradition proceedings are ongoing, but while they wait, Eastern District prosecutors have been able to seize his real estate in Mexico using a new statute for the first time.

“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 U.S. Attorney Breon 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.”

Prosecutors were able to convince U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano that Caro Quintero purchased the properties with drug proceeds generated by the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, which is an affiliate of the Sinaloa Cartel.

According to the forfeiture complaint, between 1980 and 2015, the Caro Quintero drug cartel was involved in transportation of multi-ton quantities of marijuana, and multi-kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico into the United States.

The money then went towards real estate purchases that were made in the names of family members so they could not be seized during prosecution. This is the first time under a newly created statute that a Mexican court has invoked its new civil forfeiture law to authorize the forfeiture of real property located in Mexico.

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