U.S. citizen charged with violating the Kingpin Act
Stepson of Mexican drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero transferred property into his name to evade Treasury Department sanctions program
NEW YORK – A complaint was unsealed yesterday in the Eastern District of New York charging Bryant Espinoza Aguilar, the stepson of Sinaloa Cartel leader and notorious fugitive Rafael Caro Quintero, with conspiring to commit violations of the Kingpin Act, an economic sanctions program against narcotics traffickers that is administered and enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury. Specifically, Espinoza Aguilar is charged with assisting Caro Quintero and his common law wife by putting their assets in his own name, thereby violating OFAC’s prohibition on U.S. Citizens from conducting financial transactions with specially designated narcotics traffickers.
The complaint was announced by DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue, Homeland Security Investigations New York Field Office Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, and New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett announced the charge.
According to court filings, OFAC designated Caro Quintero as a specially designated narcotics trafficker in 2000, and designated Caro Quintero’s wife as a specially designated narcotics trafficker in 2016. The OFAC designations stem from Caro Quintero’s criminal history as the leader of the Caro Quintero drug trafficking organization, a faction of the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel. Between January 1980 and January 2017, Caro Quintero led a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and conspiring to murder persons who posed a threat to his narcotics enterprise. The murder conspiracy includes Caro Quintero’s kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, in February 1985.
On August 9, 2013, a Mexican tribunal ruled that Caro Quintero could be released from custody because he had been tried improperly in a federal tribunal, rather than a state tribunal. The Mexican tribunal’s finding was later overturned, but Caro Quintero remains at large as a fugitive from Mexican and U.S. justice.
The complaint charges Espinoza Aguilar transferred property owned by his mother into his own name and bribed a public official to change the name of the property’s owner on public registry documents to protect the property from being restrained as a result his mother’s OFAC designation.
“On February 7, 1985, DEA was forever changed when Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico,” said DEA Acting Administrator Shea. “We will never forget his sacrifice and remain steadfast in our pursuit of the man responsible for his death, Rafael Caro Quintero, and those that continue to protect and enable his criminal activities. Let today’s action be a clear message to Caro Quintero, his family, and his criminal associates — we will stop at nothing in our pursuit for justice for SA Camarena.”
“As alleged, the defendant acted as a straw man to protect property purchased with the illicit, blood-stained proceeds of his stepfather’s drug trafficking empire from being seized by the government,” said U.S. Attorney Donoghue. “This Office and our partners at the Drug Enforcement Administration are using every legal measure at our disposal to hold accountable those enablers of Caro Quintero and bring them to justice.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the DEA’s Raleigh Division Office for its assistance on the case.
“While his stepfather, a Sinaloa Cartel leader, was specially designated by OFAC as a narcotics trafficker twenty years ago, Espinoza Aguilar is alleged to have violated the Kingpin Act by transferring his stepfather’s assets into his name, seeking to evade the sanctions program,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “HSI’s partnership with the DEA and its Strike Force is one in which collaboration is key, and will continue to focus on arresting those who pursue ways to circumvent the law and hide their criminal acts.”
“I commend the dedicated teamwork of the New York Strike Force which was instrumental in working to bring this suspect to justice. This defendant attempted to protect and hide the profits of dangerous narcotics that were our communities, profits made at the expense of the safety of our communities. We will continue to be vigilant in working together with our law enforcement partners to keep our neighborhoods safe, to keep harmful narcotics off our streets and those who commit these types of crimes, or protect those who do, are held accountable,” said NYSP Superintendent Corlett.
“This case is another example of our joint responsibilities to eradicate international drug trafficking. Our NYPD detectives, and state and local partners, stop at nothing to stem the flow of illegal narcotics,” said NYPD Commissioner Shea.
The investigation was led by the New York Strike Force, a crime-fighting unit comprising federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The Strike Force is based at the DEA’s New York Division and includes agents and officers of the DEA, New York City Police Department, New York State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Robotti and Erin Reid are in charge of the prosecution.