MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Legendary Mexican soccer player Rafael Márquez and a well-known norteño band leader are among 22 people sanctioned for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization, the United States Treasury announced Wednesday.
The Treasury said in a statement that it will also sanction 42 entities in Mexico, including a soccer team, Club Deportivo Morumbi, and a Guadalajara casino.
The sanctions are the result of a multi-year investigation of the drug trafficking organization allegedly headed by Raúl Flores Hernandez, knoan as 'El Tio,' (The Uncle).
The U.S. government referred to Marquez and norteno singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, better known as Julión Álvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, who "have acted as front persons for him and his (drug trafficking organization) and held assets on their behalf."
In 2015 Álvarez was hailed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as "a great example for Mexican youth."
In a brief press appearance late Wednesday Márquez denied the accusations and vowed to cooperate with authorities.
"I deny categorically any type of relation with this organization," he said. "I understand the legal situation in which I find myself, and I will immediately focus my energy on the clarification of the facts with the support of my team of lawyers."
"In the same way that I have done throughout my professional career I will confront this, my most difficult match, and I will try to clarify all this," he added.
Marquez gave a voluntary declaration before the Mexican attorney general's office on Wednesday, the office said in a statement.
After the Treasury Department statement the singer released a video on his Facebook page in which he said he was seeking proper advice before addressing the matter fully.
"I am a rancher, I know how to do my stuff, the little I have has cost me a lot ... I don't need the things that I'm being accused of ... nothing happened."
The Treasury Department linked Álvarez to three businesses associated with Flores: JCAM Editora Musical, Notyban Productions y Ticket Boleto. The singer was a member of the band MS, before forming his own group 'Julión Álvarez y su Norteño Banda'.
Who is Raúl Flores?
Flores Hernandez allegedly operated independently in the northern city of Guadalajara, but maintained alliances with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels. He is said to have been in business since the 1980s and faces two indictments in the United States for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, as well as being a fugitive from Mexican law enforcement. Mexican prosecutors are offering a five million pesos reward for his capture.
"Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds," OFAC Director John E. Smith said in the statement.
Wednesday's sanctions were the single largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control, the statement said.
The Mexican Attorney General's Office also seized related assets, including the Grand Casino near Guadalajara, according to the Treasury statement.
The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets of the people and entities named and forbid U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
The 42 sanctioned entities cross a wide range of industries and services in Mexico, including sports and recreation, health and rehabilitation, restaurants and bars, hospitality and tourism, gambling, and music production. Besides Club Deportivo Morumbi and the Grand Casino in Guadalajara they also include Camelias Bar and Nocturnum Inc, which have run popular bars and restaurants in Guadalajara; a sports rehabilitation center, Prosport & Health Imagen, and a music production company, Noryban Productions.