Drug Cartels Are Scamming American Tourists With Beachfront Property

Using beachfront timeshares as part of a scam is the latest side-business for Mexico's powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Locals and tourists swimming in the Pacific ocean at Los Muertos beach Puerto Vallarta Mexico. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Mexico’s powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel has a side-business to drug-trafficking: cheating American tourists via fraudulent timeshare apartment scams. 

The U.S. government just sanctioned eight Mexican companies established in the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta and used by the cartel—often referred to via the acronym CJNG—to scam U.S. tourists, according to the Treasury Department. 


The scheme made the owners of timeshare apartments believe they were getting purchase offers for their real estate from potential buyers. The company would then ask the timeshare owners to pay some fees and taxes to complete sales transactions, but then disappear, according to a press release put out by the U.S. Department of Treasury on March 2nd. 

The Treasury Department said that the eight companies, which claimed to be financial services or real estate companies, are linked directly or indirectly to CJNG and its timeshare fraud activities.

“As CJNG has consolidated territory over the past decade, it has added other crimes to its core activity of drug trafficking,” said OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki.

Three of the companies are based in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco; two are based in the nearby resort town of Bucerías, Nayarit; and another three are located in Guadalajara, Jalisco, according to the Treasury Department. Most of the companies have been operating since at least 2013, according to documents reviewed by VICE World News. 

“Puerto Vallarta is a CJNG strategic stronghold for drug trafficking and various other illicit activities. OFAC has taken multiple actions against CJNG actors in Puerto Vallarta, including those who have ties to nightclubs, bars, and restaurants,” the Treasury said. 


The sanctioned companies are Servicios Administrativos Fordtwoo, Integración Badeva, JM Providers Office, Promotora Vallarta Uno, Recservi, Corporativo Title I, Corporativo TS Business Inc and TS Business Corporativo.

How the Mexican Army Tracked and Killed a CJNG Cartel Commander

The CJNG used name-lenders to register the companies in Mexico and then changed the legal representatives every two years, according to documents obtained by VICE World News through Mexico’s Treasury Department. Five of the eight listed companies were registered by the same public notary in Puerto Vallarta, who was identified as Teodoro Ramírez Valenzuela. 

“By law we can’t deny our services to anyone or request information about their businesses, so we comply with the law requesting their official IDs and general documents,” Ramírez said in an email to VICE World News. 

The companies were registered using a combination of names of people, and the administrative functions of the companies were transferred to different attorneys, according to Alvan Romero, a former IRS Special Agent who spoke to VICE World News and has undercover experience inside money-laundering and financial fraud operations of drug cartels in Latin America. 

“They use a variety of nominees or name-lenders to operate and fabricate fraudulent companies,” said Romero. “Often these nominees could even be dead or completely unaware that their name is being used in a criminal activity.” 


One of the flagged companies, Administrativos Fordtwoo, registered in 2013, were founded by two men identified as Jared Guzmán Pérez and José Manuel Santana Escobar. Guzmán Pérez has been an employee for the Mexican government in several roles, including the Mexican Marines and the National Electoral Institute (INE for its Spanish acronym), according to Guzmán Pérez’ curriculum posted online in an official webpage. 

Guzmán and Santana were still college students in 2013 when the company was registered, according to their online profiles. 

The legal representative of Administrativos Fordtwoo, with “full attributes to operate the company” is Luis Lorenzo Gómez Arias, who also appears as legal representative for two other sanctioned companies from the same fraud scheme, according to documents obtained by VICE World News. Administrativos Fordtwoo allegedly made direct payments to high-ranking CJNG members, according to the U.S. investigation. 

“Most of the companies under this scheme are handled by high-ranking members of the Jalisco Cartel (CJNG), but registered under regular people who got small payments to use their INE [official Mexican ID], or under attorneys linked to several criminal organizations,” a Mexican official investigator told VICE World News. They requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the media. 

The U.S government identified three top CJNG members behind the timeshare scheme as Carlos Andres Rivera Varela, known as “La Firma”, Francisco Javier Gudino Haro, known as “La Gallina”, and Julio Cesar Montero Pinzon, known as “El Tarjetas.” 

Rivera Varela, a Colombian national, is allegedly the man appointed directly by Nemesio Oseguera, known as “El Mencho”, leader of the CJNG to operate on his behalf in the Puerto Vallarta region, according to news reports

The group operating the fraud scheme is said to be based in Puerto Vallarta and “orchestrates assassinations of rivals and politicians using high-powered weaponry,” according to the U.S. government.