A Mexican Drug Cartel Is Using U.S. Government Impersonation In Mexican Timeshare Fraud Posing As U.S. Officials
U.S. authorities say the Jalisco Mexican Drug Cartel was so bold in operating frauds targeting elderly Americans that the gang’s operators posed as U.S. Treasury Department officials.
A Mexican drug cartel is operating Timeshare Frauds that target elderly Americans who have bought timeshares in Mexico. The gang’s operators posed as U.S. Treasury Department officials, U.S. authorities said Thursday.
The Jalisco Drug Cartel (CJNG)
The Jalisco cartel is better known for producing millions of doses of deadly fentanyl and smuggling them into the United States disguised to look like Xanax, Percocet, or oxycodone. Such pills cause about 70,000 overdose deaths per year in the United States.
The Department of Justice has called the Jalisco cartel “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world.”
The cartel’s leader, Nemesio Oseguera, aka “El Mencho,” is among the most sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities.
Mexican Timeshare Fraud
The Mexican Timeshare Fraud was described by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC. The agency has been chasing fraudsters using call centers controlled by the Jalisco drug cartel to promote fake offers to buy Americans’ timeshare properties. They have scammed at least 600 Americans out of about $40 million.
But they also began contacting people claiming to be employees of OFAC itself and offering to free up funds purportedly frozen by the U.S. agency, which combats illicit funds and money laundering.
“Treasury remains committed to the Administration’s whole-of-government effort, in coordination with our partners in Mexico, to disrupt CJNG’s revenue sources and ability to traffic deadly drugs like fentanyl,” Yellen said.
“At times, perpetrators of timeshare fraud misuse government agency names in attempts to appear legitimate,” the agency said. “For example, perpetrators may call victims and claim to represent OFAC, demanding a payment in exchange for the release of funds that the perpetrator claims OFAC has blocked.”
OFAC announced a new round of sanctions Thursday against three Mexican citizens and 13 companies they said are linked to the Jalisco cartel, known by its Spanish initials as the CJNG, which has killed call center workers who tried to quit.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in the statement that “CJNG uses extreme violence and intimidation to control the timeshare network, which often targets elder U.S. citizens and can defraud victims of their life savings.”
In June, U.S. and Mexican officials confirmed that as many as eight young workers were confirmed dead after they apparently tried to quit jobs at a call center operated by the Jalisco cartel. While the victims’ families believed their children worked at a normal call center, the office was in fact run by Jalisco, Mexico’s most violent gang.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department
Treasury Takes Third Action Against CJNG Timeshare Fraud Network Centered in Puerto Vallarta
On November 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three Mexican individuals and 13 Mexican companies. These individuals and companies are linked, directly or indirectly, to timeshare fraud led by the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). CJNG, a violent Mexico-based organization, traffics a significant proportion of the illicit fentanyl and other deadly drugs that enter the United States. OFAC coordinated this action with the Government of Mexico, including its Financial Intelligence Unit, as well as U.S. Government partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“The CJNG cartel, a leading trafficker of narcotics like illicit fentanyl into the United States, generates substantial revenue for its multi-faceted criminal enterprise through its timeshare fraud network,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “CJNG uses extreme violence and intimidation to control the timeshare network, which often targets elderly U.S. citizens and can defraud victims of their life savings. Treasury remains committed to the Administration’s whole-of-government effort, in coordination with our partners in Mexico, to disrupt CJNG’s revenue sources and ability to traffic deadly drugs like fentanyl.”
Exposing CJNG Mexican Timeshare Fraud
On March 2, 2023, OFAC sanctioned eight Mexican companies pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059. These companies are linked, directly or indirectly, to CJNG’s timeshare fraud activities. On April 27, 2023, OFAC sanctioned seven Mexican individuals, including drug trafficking fugitive Eduardo Pardo Espino, and 19 Mexican companies pursuant to E.O. 14059. These individuals and companies are also linked, directly or indirectly, to CJNG’s timeshare fraud activities.
Although there are different types of timeshare fraud, the schemes often involve the following:
- third-party scammers, who claim to have ready buyers, make unsolicited purchase offers to Mexican timeshare owners;
- if offers are accepted, Mexican Timeshare Fraudmers make requests to timeshare owners for payments of advance fees and taxes, supposedly to facilitate or expedite the sale with assurances of reimbursement upon closing; and
- once multiple payments have been made to the Mexican Timeshare Fraudmers, timeshare owners eventually realize that the offers were fictitious, that there are no buyers, and that their money is gone.
Continuing To Disrupt CJNG’s Mexican Timeshare Fraud Network
Building on the two actions taken earlier this year, today OFAC sanctioned additional Mexican individuals and companies pursuant to E.O. 14059 that are linked, directly or indirectly, to CJNG’s timeshare activities. Many of these individuals and entities are located in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, which is a CJNG strategic stronghold for drug trafficking and various other illicit activities.
- Today, OFAC sanctioned Mexican individuals Teresa De Jesus Alvarado Rubio (Alvarado), Manuel Alejandro Foubert Cadena (Foubert), and Gabriela Del Villar Contreras (Del Villar) pursuant to E.O. 14059 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for on behalf of, directly or indirectly, CJNG, a person sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 14059. Alvarado has been linked to timeshare fraud activities in the Puerto Vallarta area for approximately 15 years. Foubert has been linked to timeshare fraud activities in Puerto Vallarta and elsewhere since at least 2016. Del Villar is a Puerto Vallarta attorney who engages in debt collection and real estate fraud on behalf of CJNG.
- Also today, OFAC sanctioned 13 Mexican companies pursuant to E.O. 14059. OFAC sanctioned Grupo Empresarial Epta, S.A. de C.V., which is purported to be engaged in real estate activities, for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, CJNG.
- OFAC sanctioned the following nine companies—listed with their purported activities—for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Foubert, a person sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 14059: Assis Realty And Vacation Club, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), Axis Sale & Maintenance Buildings, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), Comercializadora de Servicios Turisticos de Vallarta, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), Condos & Vacations Buildings Sale & Maintenance, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), Grupo Minera Barro Pacifico, S.A.P.I. de C.V. (mining), International Realty & Maintenance, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), Mega Comercial Ferrelectrica, S.A. de C.V. (wholesale trade), Real Estates & Holiday Cities, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), and Terra Minas e Inversiones del Pacifico, S.A.P.I. de C.V. (mining).
- OFAC sanctioned the following three Mexican companies—listed with their purported activities—for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Del Villar, a person sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 14059: Banlu Comercializadora, S.A. de C.V. (a.k.a. Cear Gym) (wholesale trade; sports club), Crowlands, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities), and Skairu, S.A. de C.V. (real estate activities).
Other Actions Against CJNG Jalisco Drug Cartel
On April 8, 2015, OFAC sanctioned CJNG pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking. On December 15, 2021, OFAC also designated CJNG pursuant to E.O. 14059. In other actions, OFAC has sanctioned numerous CJNG-linked companies that were engaged in various commercial activities and multiple individuals who played critical roles in CJNG’s drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption. Many recent actions have focused on CJNG’s strategic stronghold of Puerto Vallarta. OFAC has sanctioned the following senior CJNG members based in Puerto Vallarta: Carlos Andres Rivera Varela (a.k.a. “La Firma”), Francisco Javier Gudino Haro (a.k.a. “La Gallina”), and Julio Cesar Montero Pinzon (a.k.a. Luis Armando Velazquez Baltazar; a.k.a. Cesar Hernandez Jimenez; a.k.a. “El Tarjetas”). These three individuals are part of a CJNG enforcement group based in Puerto Vallarta that orchestrates assassinations of rivals and politicians using high-powered weaponry.
Mexican Timeshare Fraud Resources
On March 2, 2023, the FBI issued a public service announcement to consumers concerning scammers targeting owners of timeshares in Mexico. Victims of this type of scam are encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center by visiting https://www.ic3.gov. Learn more about reporting at reporting.AgainstScams.org
At times, perpetrators of this Mexican Timeshare Fraud misuse government agency names in attempts to appear legitimate. For example, perpetrators may call victims and claim to represent OFAC, demanding a payment in exchange for the release of funds that the perpetrator claims OFAC has “blocked.” On March 2, 2023, OFAC issued an alert regarding such scams, warning that individuals may falsely claim to represent OFAC in furtherance of their fraud.
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. U.S. persons may face civil or criminal penalties for violations of E.O. 14059 and the Kingpin Act.
Today’s action is part of a whole-of-government effort to counter the global threat posed by the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States that is causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses. OFAC, in coordination with its U.S. Government partners and foreign counterparts, will continue to target and pursue accountability for foreign illicit drug actors.
The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.