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Alleged Sinaloa cartel boss charged in San Diego

Kristina Davis, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — An alleged boss for Mexico's Sinaloa cartel has been charged by a San Diego federal grand jury on accusations of overseeing drug-trafficking operations at the Arizona border, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela, 52, who goes by the nicknames "Gigio" and "Yiyo," was indicted in 2018 and remains a fugitive.

The indictment was unsealed on the same day Valenzuela was designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act. The designation by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control means any property and interests of his in the U.S. are frozen, and people and entities in the U.S. are further prohibited from doing business with him.

Valenzuela is alleged to be the boss of the Nogales plaza, a term that refers to a particular city or region of control. Valenzuela is responsible for managing all drug-trafficking activities in the area, according to the Treasury. The Mexican city of Nogales borders the Arizona city of the same name and are considered part of a major smuggling route.

His organization is accused of smuggling multi-ton loads of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs from Mexico into the United States, according to the Treasury. The brief indictment charges him specifically with cocaine and marijuana conspiracies in San Diego or Imperial counties and elsewhere.


Valenzuela, originally from the state of Sinaloa, is said to report directly to the cartel's leader, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who is charged in a separate San Diego indictment and also remains a fugitive.

The Treasury on Wednesday also designated seven alleged members of Valenzuela's organization — right-hand man Leonardo Pineda Armenta and six cartel lieutenants — as well as two businesses in Mexico.


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