U.S. Department of Justice charges members of 'El Chapo's' Sinaloa Cartel amid fentanyl crackdown

Recently unsealed information has created a big break in the war against drugs.

"Well, this is the start of something big," said Cheri Oz, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Field Division.

Officials with the U.S. Justice Department say they are charging a number of people with the Sinaloa Cartel, a major drug trafficking organization from Mexico that uses Arizona as a main gateway into the United States.

"We just indicted 28 members of the Sinaloa Cartel from all different parts of the organization. Money launders, the folks that are getting the precursors from China, the manufacturers, we are hitting all parts of the organization. We have eight in custody, and there’s more to come,"  said Oz. "The Mexican cartels are partnering with Chinese companies to receive precursor chemicals, and then make this deadly drug."

It has been a long, collaborative effort from 2008 to April 2023. Among those charged by the DOJ are three of drug lord El Chapo’s sons. The indictments highlight how the Sinaloa Cartel traffics drugs into the United States, often by air, ground, human carriers, and tunnels. 

According to DEA officials, in 2022 alone, they seized more than 22 million fentanyl pills in Arizona, representing about half of the national total. Arizona is the main highway into the country for the Sinaloa Cartel.

"This is a daily thing. I would like to say it’s not, but the men and women of DEA do not stop. We are working around the clock to try and save lives," said Oz.

Justice Department officials say fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49. Between 2019 and 2021, fatal overdoses rose by 94%, with an estimated 196 Americans dying every day from fentanyl.

"DOJ and DEA, we are laser-focused on the Sinaloa Cartel, and we are really holding people accountable. We are holding them accountable for American lives. 107,622 lives lost last year. One is too many, and so that’s a lot to hold accountable, and we are going to do it," said Oz.