The daughter of the alleged head of Mexico‘s Jalisco New Generation drug cartel was arrested unexpectedly at a federal court in Washington after she arrived on Wednesday to attend a bond hearing for her brother, another top cartel figure, people familiar with the matter said.
The apprehension of Jessica Johana Oseguera Cervantes came as she was apparently unaware of a 13 February indictment and subsequent warrant for her arrest before being taken into custody by security officers, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the two cases.
The indictment, unsealed on Thursday, charges her with five counts of violating a US ban on transacting with designated drug trafficking entities and individuals. She pleaded not guilty at a hearing before US Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey after her brother’s hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
Her capture came less than a week after authorities announced the extradition of her brother Rubén Oseguera González — known as “El Menchito” — which US and Mexican officials had been waiting for months since his arrest by Mexico’s army in 2015 on drug-trafficking charges.
The siblings are alleged to have been involved in the operations of their father, one of the most important figures on the US list of alleged traffickers, Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, according to court documents. Known as “El Mencho,” the elder Oseguera Cervantes leads one of Mexico’s most powerful drug organisations, according to US authorities, and his pursuit is being led by the same prosecutors who netted the conviction last year of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera.
US-based attorneys for El Mencho’s two children did not respond to requests for comment.
Representatives for the Drug Enforcement Administration and US Marshals Service referred questions to the US Justice Department, which declined immediate comment early on Thursday afternoon.
Oseguera González, 30, pleaded not guilty last week to charges of distributing cocaine and methamphetamine and using a firearm to facilitate drug trafficking. At a hearing on Wednesday magistrate judge Harvey ordered him to remain detained.
He has insisted he is not guilty, and is not even the son of the alleged trafficker.
“In these past five years, I’ve demonstrated my innocence, having been absolved in every single case against me,” he said in a letter published in December by the news magazine Proceso.
Oseguera Cervantes, faces a bond hearing on Monday. Her arrest warrant was issued 16 February for money laundering, family attorney Victor Beltrán García told the Mexican daily El Universal, which first reported the arrest.
He said she had been found not guilty of a similar charge by a court in Guadalajara, Mexico, the paper reported.
The judge ruled “that the woman has her businesses, she pays taxes and there was no evidence that she was involved in operations with money obtained illegally, and much less from organised crime,” Beltrán García told the paper. He said the matter was resolved last year.
He said the US and Mexican governments “make up lies” about the woman.
It is unclear how much value her arrest may hold for US law enforcement authorities, but her seizure highlights an escalating pressure campaign by the US Justice Department in narco-trafficking cases.
El Menchito’s handover last week was part of a surge of extraditions that have occurred since a visit in early December to Mexico by US Attorney General William Barr, who expressed concern over the response to soaring violence by the government of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
El Menchito is perhaps the best-known of about 40 other alleged organised-crime figures sent to the United States since Mr Barr’s 5 December trip, officials say. But close watchers of cartels say American authorities have long been eager to bring to the United States alleged former Los Zetas cartel leaders Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, otherwise known as “Z-40” and “Z-42.”
Both were captured in recent years and jailed in Mexico but remain under indictment in the United States, which offered $5 million (£4.88m) in reward for each capture.
While the Zetas achieved notoriety through their brazen use of brutality and violence, it has been since been decimated and fractured, with rivals such as El Mencho seeking to take its place, US officials said.
US authorities in October 2018 announced 15 indictments, large State Department rewards and sanctions on leaders of the group, which they ranked among the world’s five most dangerous transnational criminal organisations, responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the country.
El Mencho and El Menchito’s indictments were unsealed at the time, when the Drug Enforcement Administration estimated that their cartel had influence in three-quarters of Mexican states and illicit businesses in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The US Treasury Department has targeted cartel leaders, family members, operatives and businesses seeking to disrupt their finances, alleging their funds are overwhelmingly generated from drug sales in the United States.
The Washington Post
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies