A cell leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel was arraigned in federal court today following his self-surrender to U.S. law enforcement authorities at the Calexico West Port of Entry in California, on July 27.
Damaso Lopez-Serrano, aka Mini Lic, 29, is believed to be the highest-ranking Mexican cartel leader ever to self-surrender in the U.S. Lopez-Serrano was arraigned on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Diego on Aug. 19, 2016, charging him and five of his close associates, including Nahum Sicairos-Montalvo, aka Kinceanero, with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Intended for Importation and Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances. U.S. District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw arraigned Lopez-Serrano on these charges and unsealed the indictment against these two defendants.
The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson for the Southern District of California and Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s San Diego Field Office.
The U.S. also announced today the unsealing of an additional indictment returned Dec. 14, 2016, in the Eastern District of Virginia by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section charging father and son, Damaso Lopez Nunez and Damaso Lopez Serrano, respectively, with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Intended for Importation. Damaso Lopez Nunez was arrested by Mexican authorities on May 2, and the U.S. is in the process of seeking his extradition on the December 14 indictment. Lopez Serrano will be arraigned on this indictment at a future date.
“At a time when more Americans than ever are dying from drug overdoses, the Department of Justice has made it a top priority to target the Mexican Cartel leaders responsible for the dangerous drugs that poison our families,” said Attorney General Sessions. “We will continue to go after these cartel leaders in order to dismantle their organizations from top to bottom, and today’s announcement should send them a clear message: you can turn yourselves in the easy way, or we will find you and bring you to justice the hard way. No matter what, you will face the consequences.”
The Southern District of California indictment unsealed today marks the conclusion of the fourth phase of a five-year OCDETF investigation Operation Narco Polo that, in total, has resulted in charges against over 125 people and has had a significant impact on the worldwide operations of the Sinaloa Cartel.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.