A Mexican drug cartel operating in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco state, has been exposed for posing as U.S. Treasury Department officials in an elaborate scam, according to U.S. authorities. The gang’s operators, linked to the Jalisco cartel (CJNG), used call centers to promote fake offers to buy Americans’ timeshare properties. At least 600 Americans were scammed out of approximately $40 million, officials reported.
The scammers went beyond timeshare fraud and began contacting individuals, claiming to be employees of the U.S. agency known as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). They offered to release funds that were allegedly frozen by OFAC, which combats illicit funds and money laundering. The scammers used the government agency’s name to appear legitimate and demanded payments in exchange for the release of funds.
The scam primarily targeted elder U.S. citizens, defrauding victims of their life savings. The FBI revealed that scammers contacted sellers via email, claiming to have a buyer lined up. However, the sellers were required to pay taxes or other fees before the deal could proceed. Once the money was paid, the promised deals vanished.
In response to these fraudulent activities, OFAC announced sanctions against three Mexican citizens and 13 companies linked to the CJNG. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen emphasized that the CJNG uses extreme violence and intimidation to control the timeshare network, often targeting elderly U.S. citizens.
The Jalisco cartel is notorious for producing large quantities of deadly fentanyl, smuggling them into the United States disguised as Xanax, Percocet, or oxycodone. These counterfeit pills contribute to approximately 70,000 deaths per year in the United States. Yellen stated that the Treasury remains committed to disrupting CJNG’s revenue sources and its ability to traffic drugs like fentanyl.
It is worth noting that in June, as many as eight individuals were confirmed dead after attempting to quit jobs at a call center operated by the Jalisco cartel. The victims’ families were unaware that the office was run by Mexico’s most violent gang. The Department of Justice has labeled the Jalisco cartel as one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations globally. Nemesio Oseguera, the cartel’s leader, remains one of the most sought-after individuals by Mexican and U.S. authorities.