Mexican Union Leader Arrested for Human Trafficking Connected to Several Cancun-Based Companies

Mexican Union Leader Arrested for Human Trafficking Connected to Several Cancun-Based Companies

Mexico’s tax authority and Attorney General’s Office announced on Sep. 13 that they had launched an investigation into four companies with ties to an alleged human trafficker arrested in July. Sayari analysts have identified several more companies—ten of which were previously unidentified—held by the suspect and his family.

This case demonstrates the role that public records play in identifying links between suspected human traffickers and companies that could potentially be supporting their illicit activity.

Background

At the end of July, the state leader for the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de México, CTM), José Isidro Santamaría Casanova, was arrested on human trafficking charges in the city of Cancun, located in Mexico’s southeastern Quintana Roo state. The arrest came after a foreign national accused Santamaría Casanova of forcing her into prostitiution after she arrived in Mexico on a supposed job offer to work in a hotel. 

Earlier in the year, on Mar. 17, Mexican federal authorities conducted a raid during which 51 women from Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Peru were rescued from a nightclub owned by Santamaría Casanova in Cancun. Following the raid, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR) stated that Santamaría Casanova runs the “most important prostitution ring in the Caribbean.” The FGR is also investigating the potential involvement of several of Santamaría Casanova’s family members.

The fact that Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, SAT) and FGR are now investigating four businesses connected to Santamaría Casanova raises questions about the level of involvement of these companies in the alleged human trafficking.

It also raises concerns about the potential involvement of other companies owned and/or controlled by Santamaría Casanova and his family members. At the very least, these companies should serve as new lines of investigation for the Mexican authorities.

Identifying Companies Owned by an Alleged Human Trafficker


Santamaria Casanova owns several nightclubs in Cancun, including “Dassan”—the club from which 51 women were rescued in March—and “Party Center,” according to media reports. However, an investigation using Mexican public corporate records reveals that Santamaría Casanova is a shareholder of at least five other active Cancun-based companies centered around the tourism and hospitality industries (see Fig. 1). 

Santamaría Casanova also serves as the sole administrator of the company Comercializadora de Comestibles del Caribe, S.A. de C.V., but he doesn’t hold any shares.

Interestingly, Mexican public trademark records show that Santamaría Casanova owns a trademark called El Tuch de Cancun.  The trademark bears a resemblance to the name of Cancun-based company Operadora Gastronomica El Tuch, one of the four companies currently under investigation. Santamaría Casanova was a 50 percent shareholder and president of Operadora Gastronomica El Tuch between the company’s incorporation on May 31, 2011 and sometime before Mar. 21, 2013. 

Identifying Companies Related to Implicated Family Members

Several of Santamaría Casanova’s family members are also under investigation for their alleged involvement in the human trafficking ring, according to media reports. These individuals include his two sons, Yeiko Azmir Santamaría Martínez and José David Santamaría Martínez. His brother, Juan Miguel Santamaría Casanova, and son-in-law, Ciarán Daniel Long, are also being investigated.

Some of these individuals appear in Mexican corporate records with Cancun-based businesses of their own — including a few that overlap with José Isidro Santamaría Casanova.

Yeiko Azmir Santamaría Martínez

Yeiko Azmir Santamaría Martínez is a shareholder of at least three Cancun-based companies identified by Sayari analysts (see Fig. 2). He also operates as the sole administrator of Caribean Crocodile—a company 60 percent owned by his father.

Jose David Santamaría Martinez

Jose David Santamaría Martinez is a shareholder of at least three Cancun-based companies — one of which is also held in part by his father.

Ciarán Daniel Long

Ciarán Daniel Long is a 15 percent shareholder, legal representative, and president of the board of directors of Caribbean Cancun Tours, S.A. de C.V. He also serves as the sole administrator for a Cancun-based business called Vive Sonrie y Se Feliz, S.A. de C.V. (see Fig. 4).

A Family Network

When combined, the smaller individual holdings of Santamaría Casanova and his family begin to take on the form of a much larger network (see Fig. 5). Given the scope of the criminal charges, a deeper look into this network is warranted to determine its level of involvement — if any — in the alleged human trafficking or the handling of its proceeds.

The Tax Administration Service and Attorney General’s Office Launch an Investigation

On Sep. 13, Mexico’s SAT and FGR announced that they had begun an investigation into Operadora Gastronomica El Tuch, Corporativo Balam-Kan, and Caribean Crocodile, according to local media reports.

Another Cancun-based company, Salajohn, S.A. de C.V., was also included on the list. José Isidro Santamaría Casanova served as a 52 percent shareholder of Salajohn from Jan. 30, 2005 to Mar. 11, 2006, according to public corporate records.

Mexican officials have not publicly announced that Santamaría Casanova and his family members are using their companies to launder profits from their illicit operation. But given the ownership and control relationships between these companies and individuals allegedly involved in human trafficking, these businesses could be at higher risk of money laundering.

Human Trafficking in Mexico and the Role of Public Records

Mexico has long served as a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. It is believed to be the second-most lucrative criminal economy in the country behind drug trafficking. Like drug traffickers, human traffickers also employ various tactics to conceal the illicit nature of their profits. In this context, public records can play a crucial role in unearthing links between suspected human traffickers and businesses that could serve as vehicles for money laundering.


The public records data used to power this research is available through Sayari Search! If you’re curious how this data could drive insights for your team, please reach out here.

Photo credit: dronepicr