Treasury Sanctions Mexico-based Transnational Human Smuggling Organization

Sanctions Coordinated with Government of Mexico

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the Hernandez Salas transnational criminal organization (TCO), a human smuggling organization based in Mexicali, Mexico, as well as several members and entities in its support network. The practice of human smuggling and the facilitation of fraudulent documentation undermines the U.S. asylum system, damaging public confidence in the vetting process and jeopardizing access to protection for vulnerable persons fleeing conflict, famine, and persecution. Often, migrants encounter violence in each territory they cross on their journey towards the United States and may even end up victims of human trafficking. This action continues the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government effort to confront human smuggling on the southern border of the United States.

“In close coordination with our law enforcement colleagues and Mexican partners, today’s designation of Ofelia Hernandez Salas and her criminal enterprise aims to disrupt the group’s global operations,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “We will continue to aggressively target those who seek to prey on desperate migrants and abuse the U.S. financial system.”

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, TCOs earn billions of dollars from human smuggling. Most individuals attempting to covertly enter the United States seek assistance organizing transport across the border; smuggling organizations, often associated with other TCOs, take advantage of those individuals by providing services at a significant cost.

This action was coordinated closely with the Government of Mexico, including La Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit), and is the result of ongoing collaboration with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Yuma; the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section; Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona; the HSI Human Smuggling Unit, under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force program; and the U.S. Southern Command.

THE HERNANDEZ SALAS TCO

The Hernandez Salas TCO is a human smuggling organization based in Mexicali, Mexico, that has been responsible for thousands of individuals illegally entering the United States. The Hernandez Salas TCO facilitated the travel of non-citizens from countries posing national security concerns in their efforts to enter the United States without the appropriate vetting processes. The Hernandez Salas TCO is a sophisticated network that has used various methods to smuggle undocumented non-citizens into the United States since at least 2018.

Mexican national Ofelia Hernandez Salas (Hernandez Salas) is the leader of the Hernandez Salas TCO. Hernandez Salas and members of her TCO operate a global network of human smugglers that are responsible for the international smuggling of migrants into the United States. U.S. and Mexican authorities estimate victims pay $10,000 to $70,000 for smuggling services. Hernandez Salas and members of her TCO use facilitators in other regions to move migrants to the U.S. border. She is involved in document forgery and corruption in Mexico to smuggle undocumented migrants into the United States via the southern border and has links to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Hernandez Salas is incarcerated in Mexico awaiting extradition to the United States. A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona indicted Hernandez Salas in 2021.

OFAC designated the Hernandez Salas TCO pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for being a foreign person that constitutes a significant transnational criminal organization.

OFAC designated Ofelia Hernandez Salas pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, or in support of, the Hernandez Salas TCO, and for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Hernandez Salas TCO.

OFAC is also designating four of Hernandez Salas’ human smuggling associates. Mexican national Raul Saucedo Huipio communicates with smuggling facilitators in Central America to transport migrants, collect fees, facilitate lodging, and coordinate travel. Raul Saucedo Huipio is incarcerated in Mexico awaiting extradition to the United States. A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona indicted Saucedo Huipio in the same 2021 indictment as Hernandez Salas.

Mexican national Jesus Gerardo Chavez Tamayo is an enforcer who facilitates migrant crossings and receives payments for human smuggling services on behalf of the Hernandez Salas TCO. Mexican national Fatima Del Rocio Maldonado Lopez alters documentation and provides housing for migrants in Chiapas, Mexico. Mexican national Federico Hernandez Sanchez works with the Hernandez Salas TCO to smuggle undocumented noncitizens into the United States and also receives payments for human smuggling services.

OFAC designated Raul Saucedo Huipio, Jesus Gerardo Chavez Tamayo, Fatima Del Rocio Maldonado Lopez, and Federico Hernandez Sanchez pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in in support of, the Hernandez Salas TCO.

Lastly, the Hernandez Salas TCO uses Mexican entities Hotel Plaza and Hotel Las Torres to conduct human smuggling activities. OFAC designated Hotel Plaza and Hotel Las Torres pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in in support of, the Hernandez Salas TCO.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the SDN List, but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897 here. For detailed information on the process to submit a request for removal from an OFAC sanctions list, please click here.

Click here for identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.

View the chart on the individuals designated today here.

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Official news published at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1545