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Feds dismantle massive nationwide money laundering network tied to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel

March 10, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Feds dismantle massive nationwide money laundering network tied to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel

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The U.S. Justice Department announced the massive takedown of an extensive international money laundering network tied to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

Law enforcement officials said the indictments are the result of a two-year nationwide investigation led by the FBI which resulted in the arrests of 75 individuals across the U.S.

Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California announced Thursday the indictments charging the defendants with conspiring to launder tens of millions in drug proceeds on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Prosecutors indicated that over a three-year period, members of the money laundering network allegedly employed several methods to launder illegal drug funds, which included transporting large amounts of cash currency through the border between San Diego and Tijuana.

Authorities seized more than $6 million in cash during the investigation (Photo: FBI handout)

Additionally, the co-conspirators also made deposits in so-called funnel accounts in different banks across the U.S. before sending the illicit funds back to Mexico, a Justice Department press release indicated.

All of the individuals named in the indictment face charges ranging from the trafficking and distribution of narcotics to money laundering.

According to filed court documents, the leader of the group in San Diego identified as José Roberto López Albarrán, was an alleged “money broker” who directed a network of co-conspirators to launder of tens of millions of dollars from the sale of narcotics from U.S. based drug dealers across the nation and oversaw the transfer of the illicit funds back to drug suppliers in Mexico between 2015 and 2018.

Federal prosecutors said FBI and local law enforcement agencies deployed undercover investigators to infiltrate Lopez-Albarran’s organization.

The criminal network used the WhatsApp, messaging app, and code words to organize cash pickups and transfers.

Money Laundering Network

Photo: OFAC

Federal agents arrested José Roberto López Albarrán on February 9th in San Diego.

Officials said another lead defendant in the case, Manuel Reynoso García, directed accomplices to travel to the eastern United States and collect cash bundles which were then deposited in domestic banks.

Once deposited, remittances were made via wire transfers to accounts in Mexican banks associated with “ghost companies” allegedly controlled by the Sinaloa criminal organization, which were used to disperse the laundered the money.

Reynoso and four of his co-defendants were apprehended in San Diego between January 11, 2018, and January 17, 2018.

Five additional co-conspirators already in custody for previous offenses will be transferred to the Southern District of California to be arraigned in the next few days.

Authorities discovered large quantities of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine

Authorities also arrested sixteen defendants in Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and elsewhere.

Another 35 individuals were charged in connection with the investigation in other jurisdictions including the Eastern District of Kentucky, District of Kansas, Eastern District of Washington, and Southern District of Ohio.

FBI officials say during the course of the investigation, undercover FBI agents identified and tracked multiple individuals known as “money movers,” who were responsible for collecting the drug proceeds and depositing the funds as directed by either the drug trafficking organization or money brokers.

Feds say cash deliveries occurred in restaurants, hotels and, parking lots of retail stores, across the United States, including locations in San Diego, Los Angeles, Kansas City; New York; Cincinnati; Dayton; Lexington; Boston; Philadelphia; and Chicago.

Authorities seized 20 firearms, including semiautomatic rifles and handguns (FBI Handout)

Officials say surveilling the so-called money movers enabled FBI agents to uncover multiple drug trafficking cells across the United States responsible for importing and distributing substantial quantities of narcotics.

Additionally, federal investigators managed to seize more than $ 6 million in cash, along with 95 kilograms of methamphetamine, 63 kilograms of heroin, 10 kilograms of fentanyl, 92 kilograms of cocaine 252 kilograms of marijuana, and 20 firearms including 20 semi-automatic assault rifles and pistols.

“We have siphoned the cash and the life out of a San Diego-based international money laundering organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel,”  Braverman said following unsealing of the indictments.

“By following the money, we have discovered large quantities of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine that are no longer destined for the streets of America. That’s a one-two punch that takes these organizations completely out of the ring and makes our communities safer.”

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