On Wednesday, the US Treasury named a suspected drug trafficker linked to one of the Sinaloa cartel’s biggest rivals as a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker.
Jose Luis Ruelas Torres allegedly leads what the Treasury Department calls the Ruelas Torres drug-trafficking organization — “a family-based, independent opium and heroin production and distribution organization that smuggles multi-kilogram heroin quantities into the United States.”
According to the Treasury Department’s announcement, Ruelas Torres’ organization — consisting of him and immediate and extended family members — has been involved in making, importing, and distributing heroin from Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico to the US for more than 20 years.
Treasury blacklisted Ruelas Torres along with nine other Mexican men and a Mexican woman.
They are suspected of distributing drugs in cities including Los Angeles, Denver, Milwaukee, Columbus, and New York City. They are also suspected of smuggling laundered drug proceeds back to Mexico.
The Treasury said Reulas Torres and his organization were aligned with a Sinaloa-based drug trafficker named Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as “Chapito” or “Chapito Isidro.”
In 2013, the Treasury Department designated Meza Flores and associates as a drug-trafficking organization, alleging that it had been involved in distributing large quantities of meth, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine to the US since 2000.
Other reports indicate that he has worked with the Beltran Leyva Organization (which was allied with the Sinaloa cartel but broke away in the late 2000s) since the late 1990s and acted as a trafficker and enforcer on the BLO’s behalf in Sinaloa state.
Meza Flores is also involved in the battle for succession that has wracked the powerful Sinaloa cartel since its leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was arrested for the second time in January 2016.
Meza Flores and members of the BLO reportedly planned and led an assault on the community of La Tuna in Sinaloa state’s Badiraguato municipality last summer.
La Tuna is the birthplace of “El Chapo” Guzman and his mother, Consuelo Loera, still lives there. The raid killed several people and forced Loera from her home, which was then ransacked by the assailants.
The battle for control over the Sinaloa cartel has intensified in the months since Guzman was extradited to the US in January. Since that attack on Guzman’s mother’s home, his sons have faced two attacks: a weeklong kidnapping in August and what appears to have been a failed assassination attempt in early February.