The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Thursday it had sanctioned La Nueva Familia Michoacana, a Mexican drug cartel it says is behind the increasing presence of rainbow fentanyl in the United States.
Rainbow fentanyl comes in a "variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes and is made to attract children and young users," the department said in a release.
"Today’s action targets the leadership of one of the most violent and depraved drug cartels," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement. "Not only does this cartel traffic fentanyl, which claimed the lives of more than 71,000 Americans last year, it now markets ‘rainbow fentanyl’ as part of a deliberate effort to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults."
The cartel's co-leaders Johnny Hurtado and Jose Hurtado are two of the most wanted criminals in Mexico and the State of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office is offering up to 500,000 Mexican pesos for information leading to their capture.
Johnny Hurtado remains a fugitive after a federal grand jury in Florida indicted him on two charges of attempted possession of and conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 2000.
"La Nueva Familia Michoacana has also demonstrated a willingness to attack government officials and buildings in Mexico, in addition to employing and training multiple assassins," the release said.
The department said its partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Mexican government has been "critical" in the effort to "protect our citizens from the harmful effects of these deadly narcotics."
The cartel operates in 35 municipalities, generating money from drug trafficking, illicit mining and extortion, including distributing rainbow fentanyl, which has permeated the U.S.
It also traffics drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine from Central America into the U.S.
All the property or interests in property held by the cartel or its leaders in the U.S. or in possession of a U.S. citizen will be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control as a result of the sanctions, the release said.