PORTLAND, Ore. – A probe that disrupted a scheme to traffic methamphetamine ingredients through the U.S. to drug cartels in Mexico has led the U.S. Treasury Department to designate the Ibarra Cardona drug trafficking organization and several associates as "specially designated narcotics traffickers" under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
The action prohibits persons in the U.S. from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designated individuals and entities, and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The case, dubbed "Operation Liquid Dragon," was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Interdiction Team and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon.
In 2009, investigators uncovered a scheme involving Indian chemical producers, an Oregon importer and San Diego customs broker. As part of the scheme, the participants illegally imported the methamphetamine precursor chemical ephedrine from India into the U.S. To evade U.S. Customs authorities, the chemical was often labeled as "green tea extract." Once the ephedrine was in the U.S., it was transported to Mexico for use by cartel run methamphetamine super labs.
Luis Gerardo Ibarra Cardona, the leader of the Mexican supply network, is among the individuals designated under the Kingpin Act by the Treasury Department last week. He joins his mother, father, uncle and brother along with three companies they operate as specially designated narcotics traffickers. Together they are responsible for operating a smuggling network that has supplied several tons of methamphetamine precursor materials to the Sinaloa Cartel.
In addition to the Kingpin Act sanctions against Ibarra Cardona, Operation Liquid Dragon resulted in six convictions with sentences ranging from three to eight years in federal prison and the seizure of more than $6 million in assets. The last defendant in the case was sentenced in September.
Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of more than $1 million for each violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison and fines for criminal violation of the Kingpin Act.