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US Targets Traffickers Linked to Mexican Drug Cartel

Suspected members of Sinaloa drug cartel and weapons are presented to the media in Tijuana, Mexico, January 20, 2011 (file photo)

The United States says it has imposed sanctions on a six-nation network of drug traffickers linked to Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it has designated as drug traffickers Colombian native Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa and more than 70 individuals and entities in his organization.

The action freezes any assets the named parties have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits people in the U.S. from conducting business with them.

A Treasury Department official, Adam Szubin, said Cifuentes Villa will no longer be able to "masquerade as a legitimate businessman while supplying cocaine to the Sinaloa Cartel." The sanctions are intended to prevent Cifuentes Villa from using the other people named in the order to launder his drug trafficking money.

Cifuentes Villa is believed to own or control companies ranging from an airline in eastern Colombia to a real estate company in Mexico. Treasury experts say his organization also operates in the U.S., Ecuador, Panama and Spain.

Among those sanctioned Wednesday was a man allegedly operating as liaison between the Cifuentes Villa organization and the head of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Family members of Cifuentes Villa were also designated for what the Treasury Department said was materially supporting his drug trafficking, or for helping manage his companies.