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U.S. sanctions James Rodríguez's former Colombian soccer team for drug ties

  • In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 photo, Colombia's James Rodriguez, front, center right, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's third goal during the group C World Cup soccer match against Greece at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Colombia defeated Greece 3-0. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

    In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 photo, Colombia's James Rodriguez, front, center right, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's third goal during the group C World Cup soccer match against Greece at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Colombia defeated Greece 3-0. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued sanctions on a top Colombian soccer team due to its owner’s alleged ties to a drug cartel.

Envigado F.C. is owned by Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego, whom the Treasury Department describes as a member of a criminal organization known as "La Oficina de Envigado" (“The Envigado Office”). Founded by Medellín cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, the group has for years been a major force in drug trafficking in and around Medellín.

Placing Upegui and the team on the department's list of foreign traffickers effectively freezes any U.S. assets that he or anybody associated with the team may have and bars any American from doing business with them.

Upegui’s mother, Margarita Gallego Orrego, who along with her son is a majority owner of the team, was also placed on the Treasury list, along with eight other associates and 14 business entities in Colombia.

"La Oficina has played a significant role in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering activities, and this action builds on our continued efforts to target the cartel from all angles," Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

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According to Szubin, Upegui has for a long time used his position as Envigado’s owner to financially support La Oficina, laundering money for the crime syndicate and using the team as a front.

These crime allegations have plagued the team for years. Two of Envigado’s presidents, Jorge Arturo Bustamante and Gustavo Adolfo Upegui López, were shot dead in 1993 and 2006 respectively, allegedly by members of La Oficina.

Envigado recently gained publicity this past summer as it is the team where international superstar James Rodríguez played his first professional game with.

EFE and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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