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Mexican drug cartel CJNG has been involved in a timeshare scam that has cost Americans $40 million in 2022. The cartel has been targeting elderly victims and defrauding them of their life savings by using extreme violence and intimidation to control the timeshare network. The operation started small in Puerto Vallarta and has now expanded to popular tourist spots like Cancun. The U.S. Treasury has issued sanctions against seven fugitives and 19 Mexican companies connected to the scam in an effort to disrupt CJNG’s revenue sources.

The CJNG’s timeshare scam has expanded rapidly over the years, becoming more intricate and estimated to be stealing hundreds of millions from Americans annually. Victims are targeted with promises of reimbursement from seemingly legitimate sources, including a class action lawsuit filed by a Mexican lawyer. One victim interviewed by the Courier Journal lost nearly $1.8 million over a decade, falling victim to persistent scammers who spoke perfect English and kept him hooked for years with false promises of help. The scam has also caught the attention of the FBI, which warned of the alarming rate at which timeshare owners in Mexico are being targeted.

In response to the growing threat of the cartel’s timeshare scam, the U.S. Treasury has imposed sanctions on multiple individuals and companies involved in the operation. These sanctions aim to freeze assets and prevent American citizens and businesses from engaging with the listed entities. However, the cartel’s criminal enterprise extends beyond defrauding Americans, with reports of violence and intimidation towards Mexican citizens who attempt to leave the illegal call centers used for the scam. Despite these efforts, the extent of the operation makes it challenging for authorities to fully dismantle the network.

The sophistication of the cartel’s scheme is highlighted by the use of high-pressure sales tactics, false promises of restitution, and constantly evolving shell companies to avoid detection by law enforcement. The operation largely targets older Americans and relies on a network of individuals who speak perfect English to deceive victims. While the U.S. government and law enforcement agencies are following the money and taking action against the scam, Mexican authorities have been less proactive in addressing the issue. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been criticized for downplaying cartel violence and criminal activity within the country.

The FBI has released safety tips for individuals to protect themselves from timeshare scams, including being cautious of unsolicited contact, conducting research on entities contacting you, and seeking advice from trusted professionals. If you have been victimized by a timeshare-related scam, the FBI advises filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, providing detailed information about the interaction with the scammers. The efforts to combat the CJNG cartel’s timeshare scam highlight the ongoing challenges faced by law enforcement in addressing sophisticated criminal enterprises that target vulnerable individuals.

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