ATLANTA – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Thursday announced new sanctions against a Mexican drug cartel that smuggles fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States.

Yellen’s announcement during a news conference in Atlanta coincided with the arrests of eight leaders of the cartel La Nueva Familia Michocana on 13 indictments.

More than 1 million Americans have died of drug overdoses since 2000, while fatal overdoses of fentanyl among Georgians rose by 200% between 2019 and 2021, Yellen said.

“Far too many families in communities across the United States are losing their loved ones to opioids,” she said. “That’s why President Biden has directed the entire U.S. government to use every tool at our disposal to combat the opioid epidemic.”

“Illicit drugs imported into the United States are killing our citizens at an unprecedented rate,” added Ryan Buchanan, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Yellen said the sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Assets Control are aimed at denying cartels the funds they need to carry out their illegal activities.

“Cartels that peddle fentanyl operate in many respects like other businesses,” she said. “They rely on access to banking systems … to make payroll and finance purchases.”

Yellen said the federal government needs help from the private sector to make the sanctions work. Toward that end, the Treasury Department also issued an advisory Thursday to help financial institutions detect and report flows of money fueling the fentanyl supply chain.

“One of the most powerful things we can do is deny (cartels) the fruits of their labor, the very essence of what these cartels need – their money,” said Robert Murphy, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta office. “We don’t want them to use that money to make them stronger and have a bigger impact in the United States.”

Yellen said La Nueva Familia Michocana not only ships fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines into the U.S. but also smuggles illegal immigrants across the southern border and engages in arms trafficking.

Yellen said Chinese officials have agreed to cooperate with the American effort to combat fentanyl, and she is reaching out to Claudia Sheinbaum, recently elected president of Mexico, to work with the U.S. on choking off the flow of dangerous drugs across the border.