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Federal indictment reveals how the Sinaloa cartel tried to purchase California bank

December 31, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Federal indictment reveals how the Sinaloa cartel tried to purchase California bank

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According to Proceso, money launderers working for Mexican drug traffickers, presumably, the Sinaloa cartel attempted to buy a bank in California, to launder larger amounts of cash.

Federal authorities revealed the Sinaloa cartel’s plan In a sweeping racketeering indictment unsealed against 20 people in the District Court of Central California.

FBI agents have detained 11 defendants so far, alleging a series of money laundering schemes that centered on the former head of Saigon National Bank, located in Westminster, California, and members of the Sinaloa cartel.

The 109-page criminal complaint detailed how launderers approached the director of Saigon National Bank (SNB) to set up a scheme that allowed them to move funds from Mexico to the United States and vice versa.

The indictment accuses Lu and five defendants as “playing key roles in a series of schemes to launder drug proceeds” in violation of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The other five are Tsung Wen “Peter” Hung, 61, of Monterey Park; Edward Kim, 56, of Beverly Hills; John Edmundson, a British citizen who lives in Hong Kong; and Mexican citizens Pablo Hernandez, 75, of Tijuana, Mexico, and Emilio Herrera, 53, who lives in Spring Valley, the Attorney’s Office said.

Federal authorities currently want Edmundson.

According to documents listed in the indictment, the six suspects worked for a transnational Mexican crime syndicate involved in Narcotics trafficking and money laundering in countries including the United States, China, Cambodia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, and Switzerland.

Saigon Bank representatives have so far refused comment on the pending criminal indictment.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Justice Department, detailed the scheme in a statement. “These guys had long-standing connections and were doing business and money laundering for years. Word gets out that they’re available to help people launder money,“ said Mrozek.

Wiretaps caught the defendants discussing the sale of a majority interest in the bank with a cooperating witness known as CI-1 and an undercover federal agent posing as his boss, he said.

“Various people are primarily solicited to purchase the bank with the argument being, ‘Look, if you buy this bank or if you have at least a controlling interest, you can do whatever the hell you want,”” Mrozek said.

The suspects also discussed the formation of a foundation in Liechtenstein to launder illicit proceeds from drug sales worldwide.

The cooperating witness and the undercover agent told Lu the foundation would give them the ability to wash large amounts of illegal profits stemming from drug sales in Europe while adding that narcotics had been traded in Nigeria in exchange for weapons, the Attorney’s Office said.

According to the criminal indictment, the bank was given a $1.2 million investment in 2008 from the Treasury Department to encourage lending.

Federal prosecutors accuse Lu of being a vital link in connection the informant to members of the Sinaloa cartel who wanted to launder millions of dollars each month, according to the indictment.

The indictment further alleges that members of the Sinaloa cartel invested $1 million in Saigon National Bank, and Lu discussed the cartel’s possible purchase, authorities said.

Four of the other defendants named in the indictment are from Orange County. They are Ben Ho, 41, and Lien Tran, 41, both of Santa Ana; Dr. Truong “Andrew” Nguyen, 34, of Westminster, who is still being sought; and Tom Huynh, 57, also known as the “The Fat Guy,” of Westminster.

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