Mexican drug trafficker held US woman hostage for a year: Justice Department

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The dangerous, highly addictive synthetic opioid fentanyl is increasingly part of the large US drug trafficking business between Mexico and the United States Pouches of confirmed fentanyl are displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019, in New York.According to US government data, about 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2018. That accounts for 46 percent of all fatal overdoses. Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for a range of conditions, has been central to the American opioid crisis which began in the late 1990s.

An alleged member of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel held a US woman hostage for one year to collect a drug debt from a Delaware-based group of dealers, US justice officials said Tuesday.

The Justice Department said Luis Raul Castro Valenzuela, aka Chacho, demanded that the Delaware dealers hand over more proceeds from the sale of heroin and fentanyl to gain her freedom.

The woman, only identified as ND, was taken hostage in January 2020 and only freed last month in raids by Mexican police in Culiacan, which also led to Castro Valenzuela's capture.

She was recovered "in good health," the department said.

Officials said Delaware resident Jamar Jackson, a second man, and two women were charged in the same investigation with drugs and firearms offenses.

Delaware federal district attorney David Weiss said the woman was kidnapped by Castro Valenzuela to force Jackson to keep distributing his drugs.

"The victim's safety and eventual return was premised on continual payments by Jamar Jackson and others in satisfaction of a large drug debt," he said.

Officials said the investigation led to the seizure of more than $1 million worth of heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine, and 12 guns.

Castro Valenzuela has been charged by Mexican authorities as a member of the Sinaloa cartel, but the US Justice Department is asking for him to be extradited to face justice in the Untied States.

"We are all relieved that the victim has been rescued safely," said Brian Jones, an investigator in the Department of Homeland Security.

"But it also drives home the dangers of narcotics trafficking and the violent behavior of the Mexican drug cartels."