By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A grand jury has indicted a suspected Mexican narcotics kingpin who is a powerful figure in the violent Sinaloa drug cartel, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.

Damaso Lopez Nunez, 47, was indicted in November by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, but the indictment was sealed until Thursday, prosecutors said.

Lopez Nunez faces charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and conspiring to commit money laundering, according to a Justice Department statement.

The U.S. government has designated Lopez Nunez a narcotics kingpin, meaning U.S. residents and companies are barred from engaging in any transactions with him. Any assets he has in the United States will be frozen, the department said.

Prosecutors said Lopez Nunez, who is not in custody, is a top lieutenant of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, who faces multiple federal indictments.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Stacey Joyce)


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