FROM: DEPARTMENT OF THE TRESURY
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today announced the designation of Guatemalan national Horst Walter Overdick Mejia, a critical link in the drug trade between Colombian producers and the violent Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, as a specially designated narcotics trafficker. Today’s action, taken pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with this individual and freezes any assets the designee may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment of Overdick Mejia for his narcotics trafficking and related firearms activities. On April 3, Guatemalan authorities arrested Overdick Mejia, the head of a major drug trafficking and money laundering organization based in Guatemala. A veteran spice buyer, he used his local contacts and his business acumen to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine to Mexico and on into the United States. It is widely believed that Overdick Mejia is responsible for bringing Los Zetas into Guatemala in 2008 in order to eliminate a competing trafficker and who later became their most important ally in Guatemala. He also laundered millions of U.S. dollars in narcotics proceeds generated by both his own organization as well as Los Zetas.
“Overdick Mejia’s drug trafficking activities and close ties to the Los Zetas makes him a dangerous and critical figure in the Central American narcotics trade,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. “By designating Overdick Mejia, OFAC is demonstrating its support for the Guatemalan government in its struggle against the threats and violence posed by these international drug gangs.”
OFAC coordinated this designation action with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Today’s action is part of ongoing efforts pursuant to the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide. The Treasury Department has designated more than 1,000 individuals and entities pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000.
“These are necessary tools we use to ensure that we put dangerous drug trafficking organizations out of business and ensure they cannot exploit the U.S. financial system,” said DEA Chief of Financial Operations John Arvanitis. “Overdick Mejia was a vital link between Colombian drug producers and Mexican cartels such as Los Zetas. This case is yet another example of the united front that law enforcement and regulators must utilize to ensure that organizations such as this one are put out of business forever.”
Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.