New joint U.S.-Mexican law enforcement effort targets top drug cartel criminals

In a downtown press conference Wednesday, top-ranking Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials announced that they are teaming up in a new Chicago-based law enforcement group that will target top drug cartel criminals.

DEA Chicago Special Agent in Charge Brian M. McKnight said the new Chicago based group will work with Mexican law enforcement on "high value targets" in an effort to stop the flow of illicit drugs from Mexican cartels into the city. The DEA says law enforcement in Chicago has seized 300 kilos of heroin and illicit fentanyl and $20 million of drug money so far this year.

"Today, we begin innovative action plans to solve this problem," said McKnight.

In addition to teaming up on cartel leaders in Mexico, McKnight says a new Chicago-based, DEA-led drug taskforce made up of federal agencies, the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police will target "local gangs that are involved in drug distribution in the hotspot areas throughout the city of Chicago." "To be crystal clear, the drugs are being manufactured in Mexico and the Mexican cartels control the routes into the United States for distribution," said McKnight.

U.S. and Mexican officials have put a multi-million dollar bounty on the leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel or CJNG, Nemesio Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, also known as "El Mencho." The CJNG is a violent criminal organization that grew in power in the wake of the 2016 arrest of notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

El Mencho

"Unfortunately our country is now faced with a new menace," said DEA Regional Director North and Central Americas Region Matthew G. Donahue.

Donahue called the CJNG a "rapidly expanding brand" in Chicago and worldwide; a Mafia-style organization based on bloodshed and violence.

In March, the I-Team first reported that the leader of CJNG, Nemesio Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, also known as "El Mencho" is the Chicago DEA's new "most wanted" drug criminal. DEA officials say the CJNG has now established a stronghold in Chicago. Osgeuera Cervantes is already under indictment in Washington D.C. and believed to be directing his cartel from a Mexican mountain hideout.

DEA officials now tell the I-Team that "El Mencho" is one of dozens of cartel targets they're seeking in Mexico.

"I would say there is multiple high value targets, dozens of them in Mexico," said McKnight. "I don't want to lose sight of other cartel members and leaders that have a huge footprint in Chicago, including the Sinaloa cartel, including the Gulf cartel and others."

Authorities on Wednesday declined to discuss reports that CJNG has merged with the Sinaloa cartel, as Sinaloa druglord "El Chapo" awaits a November trial in New York City.

Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson was appreciative of the new collaborative cross-border effort, saying, "we can't do it alone at CPD. "It's not just a Chicago problem," said Superintendent Johnson, "it's an international problem."

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Top-ranking Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials announced Wednesday their new plans to combat top drug cartel criminals.

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