MEXICO CITY – Legendary Mexican soccer player Rafael Márquez Álvarez and a well-known norteño band leader are among 22 people sanctioned for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization, the United States Treasury announced Wednesday.
The Treasury said in a statement that it will also sanction 43 entities in Mexico, including a soccer team and casino.
The sanctions are the result of a multi-year investigation of the drug trafficking organization allegedly headed by Raúl Flores Hernández.
Treasury sanctions longtime Mexican Drug Kingpin Raul Flores Hernandez and his vast network: https://t.co/3QRsWmX7Xq pic.twitter.com/3HdrQu5Qhz
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) August 9, 2017
It is the single largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the statement said.
Márquez Álvarez is a former Barcelona and New York Red Bulls star who currently plays for the Mexican soccer club Atlas in Guadalajara and is captain of the Mexican national team.
Messages left for Márquez Álvarez’s agent Enrique Nieto seeking comment were not immediately answered.
Flores Hernández allegedly operated independently in the northern city of Guadalajara, but maintained alliances with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.
The Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) also seized related assets, including the Grand Casino near Guadalajara, according to the Treasury statement.
“Raúl Flores Hernández has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds,” OFAC Director John E. Smith said in the statement.
Federal drug trafficking indictments against Flores Hernández were returned in March in Washington and the southern district of California.
The U.S. government referred to Márquez Álvarez and norteño singer Julio César Álvarez, better known as Julión Álvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernández, who “have acted as front persons for him and his (drug trafficking organization) and held assets on their behalf.”
The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets of the people and entities named and forbid U.S. citizens from doing business with them.