A federal indictment unsealed earlier this month alleges a potential alliance between the Sinaloa Cartel and Chinese underground banking groups.

The 10-count superseding indictment “charges Los Angeles-based associates of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel with conspiring with money-laundering groups linked to Chinese underground banking to launder drug trafficking proceeds,” read a press release from the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs. “During the conspiracy, more than $50 million in drug proceeds flowed between the Sinaloa Cartel associates and Chinese underground money exchanges.”

A total of 24 Sinaloa cartel members were charged with one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

The lead defendant, 45-year-old Edgar Joel Martinez-Reyes, and others allegedly tried to hide the money’s source and avoid federal financial reporting requirements.

Twenty of those charged will be arraigned in the coming weeks in the U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

“Relentless greed, the pursuit of money, is what drives the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the worst drug crisis in American history,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “This DEA investigation uncovered a partnership between Sinaloa Cartel associates and a Chinese criminal syndicate operating in Los Angeles and China to launder drug money. Laundering drug money gives the Sinaloa Cartel the means to produce and import their deadly poison into the United States. DEA’s top operational priority is to save American lives by defeating the cartels and those that support their operations. This investigation is the latest example, and there is more to come.”

The indictment resulted from a multi-year investigation named “Operation Fortune Runner.” The investigation began in 2019, and so far, law enforcement has seized nearly $5 million in narcotics proceeds, 302 pounds of cocaine, 92 pounds of methamphetamine, 3,000 ecstasy pills, 44 pounds of psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms), numerous ounces of ketamine, three semi-automatic rifles, and eight semi-automatic handguns.

The Sinaloa Cartel is notorious for its production and distribution of fentanyl, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. In April, it was reported that the cartel was moving its operations closer to the Texas border.

Fentanyl has been coming across the border at increasingly higher rates. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that in FY 2023, 27,000 pounds of fentanyl were seized, up 84% from 2022, when 14,700 pounds of fentanyl were seized, as reported by DX.

The DFW metroplex has also seen a spike in the deadly opioids being found and seized, according to Sgt. Benjamin Banes of the Fort Worth Police Department and Jesse Carr, senior public information officer with the Dallas Police Department.

Both departments are working to combat the flow of the deadly drug into the metroplex, even as DPD continues to suffer from a longstanding police shortage of roughly 1,000 officers, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.