Cryptocurrency News

US Treasury sanctions Ethereum wallet tied to cartel over ‘illicit fentanyl trafficking’

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The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury has added a crypto wallet allegedly connected to a major international crime syndicate as part of its list of Specially Designated Nationals.

In a Sept. 26 announcement, the U.S. Treasury said it had sanctioned 10 individuals, including many tied to the Sinaloa Cartel. Among those added to the department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals included Mexican national Mario Alberto Jimenez Castro through an Ethereum wallet.

‘[Jimenez Castro] reports directly to a Chapitos deputy and operates a money laundering organization that uses virtual currency and wire transfers, among other methods, to transfer proceeds from illicit fentanyl sales in the United States to Sinaloa Cartel leaders in Mexico,” said Treasury. “Jimenez Castro has directed U.S.-based couriers to pick up cash in the United States and deposit it into various virtual currency wallets for payment directly to the Chapitos and for reinvestment in fentanyl production.”

According to data from Etherscan, the wallet had a balance of roughly 0.018 Ether (ETH) — $28.22 — at the time of publication, with the latest activity more than 200 days ago. No other wallet addresses were included in OFAC’s most recent sanctions, which Treasury said was in response to “illicit fentanyl trafficking” affecting the crisis surrounding opioid use in the United States.

“Today’s actions show that Treasury and the Administration will continue to relentlessly target the criminal enterprises threatening international security and flooding our communities with fentanyl and other deadly drugs,” said Brian Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Related: Sen. Elizabeth Warren points to crypto payments as facilitating fentanyl trade in China

The sanctions followed OFAC sanctioning individuals with ties to North Korea’s Lazarus Group. The U.S. Treasury also cited Lazarus as part of its reasons for adding crypto mixer Tornado Cash to its list of Specially Designated Nationals in August 2022. U.S. authorities arrested Tornado Cash co-founder Roman Storm in August for charges related to money laundering and sanctions violations.

Many industry leaders and policymakers criticized Treasury’s actions on Tornado Cash. Six individuals backed by crypto exchange Coinbase filed a lawsuit against Treasury over the sanctions, but in August a judge largely sided with the U.S. government in a motion for summary judgment.

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