Thursday, June 8, 2023

US fines Mexican cartel members for fraud

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on Thursday against members or associates of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel who were allegedly involved in a timeshare fraud operation targeting older Americans.

Ryan Donner, a real estate agent in the tourist destination of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast, said the fraud was rare but highly sophisticated.

The cartel is best known for manufacturing millions of doses of the deadly opioid fentanyl and smuggling it into the United States, posing as drugs such as Xanax, Percocet, or oxycodone. These types of pills cause about 70,000 overdose deaths a year in the United States.

But apparently, cartel members and collaborators decided to branch out and scam millions of dollars out of people who wanted to sell their timeshare in Mexico. The scam focused on Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, an area dominated by the cartel. Known by their acronym CJNG, the group inspires so much fear in Mexico that they are often referred to simply as “the four letters”.

The Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed fines on Eduardo Pardo Espino, a fugitive for drug trafficking in the United States, as well as six other people and 19 Mexican tourism companies or real estate properties. The sanctions freeze all assets that individuals or companies have in the United States and prohibit US citizens or companies from transacting with them.

Brian Nelson, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said “CJNG’s deep involvement in timeshare fraud in the Puerto Vallarta area and elsewhere, which often targets senior citizens and can defraud victims of their life savings, is an important source of income that supports the group’s overall criminal activities.

Fraudsters have approached people, often Americans, to sell timeshare properties in Puerto Vallarta.

In an alert issued in 2023, the FBI said scammers contacted prospective sellers via email to say they had a buyer waiting, but that the seller needed to pay tax or other fees before the deal could be closed. executed. It seemed that once the money was paid, business fizzled out.

According to the FBI report, the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2022 received “more than 600 complaints with losses of approximately $39.6 million from victims who were contacted by scammers about timeshares they owned.” ” in Mexico.

Donner, an agent for Ryan Donner & Associates, a real estate firm in Puerto Vallarta, said that in the past two years, two people contacted by the scammers had requested his firm’s assistance.

“It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened,” said Donner, who in both cases was able to put people off before they made any payments.

Donner said the scammers sent prospective sellers fake contracts and official-looking documents from the Mexican tax authority that ostensibly stated that taxes were due on the potential sale.

“They have contracts, they have documents that look like official documents, it would be very easy to fall into the trap of paying them,” Donner explained.

“If a company contacts someone and says they have a buyer for a property and all they need is money, that’s a huge red flag that they’re some kind of scam,” Donner said. “That’s not how companies usually work.”

He added that neither he nor the possible victims realized a drug cartel could be involved.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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