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Press Release

Alleged Drug Cartel Leader Charged

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Director of Media Relations Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726


SAN DIEGO – A federal grand jury indictment was unsealed in San Diego today against alleged Mexican drug cartel leader Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas in connection with suspected heroin and fentanyl trafficking. Penuelas was also the target of sanctions imposed today by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The indictment, returned on January 27, 2017, charges Gonzalez Penuelas with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Intended for Importation, and Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances. On January 30, 2017, the Clerk of the Court issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. Gonzalez Penuelas remains a fugitive.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas and the Gonzalez Penuelas Drug Trafficking Organization (Gonzalez Penuelas DTO) as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  Please see

Gonzalez Penuelas is the alleged leader of the Gonzalez Penuelas DTO, which is one of the largest raw opium gum and heroin sources of supply in northern Mexico, and increasingly a major distributor of fentanyl. The Gonzalez Penuelas DTO operates primarily in Sinaloa and Sonora, Mexico, various ports of entry in the United States, as well as numerous U.S.-based distribution cells in California, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Nevada. The upper echelons of the Gonzalez Penuelas DTO hierarchy consist of Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas’ family members. The Gonzalez Penuelas DTO cooperates with other DTOs within Mexico, to include acting as an enforcement arm for the various Mexican DTO’s trafficking routes and is aligned with Mexican drug traffickers Fausto Isidro Meza Flores and Rafael Caro Quintero. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control designated Fausto Isidro Meza Flores in January 2013 for his role in narcotics trafficking. The President identified Rafael Caro Quintero as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act in 2000.

“This indictment and the Treasury Department sanctions announced today show that the Department of Justice, together with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate and prosecute the most significant cartels and kingpins who import illegal drugs into the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman. Grossman praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton, HSI and DEA agents and all law enforcement partners for their excellent work on this case.

“This important Kingpin designation is an example of the effectiveness of our local and national law enforcement partnerships to help bring justice to drug smuggling organizations who benefit the most from smuggling dangerous drugs across the border,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, CA.  “The nation’s opioid epidemic continues affect our local communities and our agents are working tirelessly with our partners to disrupt the flow of these and all illegal narcotics.”

“DEA and our law enforcement partners continue to target organizations that are fueling the American opioid epidemic,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery.  “The indictment and the Department of Treasury sanctions against Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas serve as a warning to others causing the deaths of Americans through drug trafficking: we will utilize every resource available to disrupt your drug trafficking organization and bring you to justice.”

The indictment in this case marks the conclusion of the initial phase of a multi-year OCDETF investigation. This joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation targeted the leadership elements, lieutenants, associates, and money launderers connected with the Rafael Caro-Quintero DTO and Beltran Leyva Organization.

Acting U.S. Attorney Grossman also praised the outstanding work of the federal team from HSI Calexico / DEA Imperial County in the culmination of this investigation. Acting U.S. Attorney Grossman also thanked Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Enforcement Operations and the Office of International Affairs, and the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for their ongoing assistance in this investigation.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton.

DEFENDANT                                                                              Case Number: 17CR00217-CAB

Jesus Gonzalez Penuelas, aka Chuy Gonzalez                                   Age: 51           Sinaloa, Mexico


Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances for Purpose of Unlawful Importation, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 959, 960 and 963; Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine and 5 years supervised release.

Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 960 and 963. Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine and 5 years supervised release.


Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration

Department of Homeland Security, Joint Task Force – Investigations

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations

United States Marshals Service

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado

United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon

Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations

El Centro Police Department

Brawley Police Department

Imperial County District Attorney’s Office

Imperial Valley, Law Enforcement Coordination Center

*An indictment or complaint is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendant is presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated May 12, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS21-0512-Penuelas