SAN DIEGO – Indictments were unsealed today in San Diego federal court charging 40 members of an international money-laundering scheme with conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug money.
In addition to the indictments unsealed today in San Diego, a total of 75 defendants nationwide have been charged across the United States with crimes ranging from drug distribution to money laundering, all stemming from this investigation, including defendants in the Southern District of Ohio, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Kansas, and the Eastern District of Washington.
According to the indictments and other publicly filed court documents, Jose Roberto Lopez-Albarran, a significant money broker for a Mexican-based international money laundering organization, along with other members of the organization, allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from the United States to Mexico between 2015 and 2018.
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As a result of the investigation, law enforcement seized more than $6 million dollars in United States currency as well as 95 kilograms of methamphetamine, 63 kilograms of heroin, 10 kilograms of fentanyl, 92 kilograms of cocaine, 252 kilograms of marijuana, worth millions of dollars on the streets, and 20 firearms, including semiautomatic assault rifles and handguns.
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Lopez-Albarran oversaw a network of co-conspirators to assist in transferring millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from drug dealers in the United States to drug suppliers in Mexico, including to individuals working for the Sinaloa Cartel.
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As part of the investigation, the FBI deployed undercover agents and task force officers from the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Investigation, Chula Vista Police Department, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office to infiltrate Lopez-Albarran’s organization and after gaining the trust of the organization, agreed to pick up bulk currency across the United States for transfer to Mexico.
Over the course of the last two years, undercover agents identified multiple individuals known as “money movers,” i.e., people responsible for collecting narcotics proceeds and disposing of those proceeds as directed by either the drug trafficking organization or the money brokers.
Law enforcement then received phone numbers and code words from Lopez-Albarran to contact these money movers to arrange for the delivery of narcotics proceeds. The money movers concealed and transported amounts ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds at a time, hidden within compartments in vehicles, luggage, duffel bags and shoeboxes. These cash deliveries took place in locations such as parking lots of retail stores, hotels, and restaurants across the United States, including ones in San Diego, California; Los Angeles, California; Kansas City, Missouri; New York, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Lexington, Kentucky; Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Chicago, Illinois. By targeting these money movers, law enforcement was able to discover multiple drug trafficking cells across the United States responsible for importing and distributing substantial quantities of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.
In addition, another lead defendant, Manuel Reynoso Garcia, along with his co-conspirators were charged last month in San Diego federal court for their sophisticated money laundering activities. He and his co-conspirators directed money movers to travel throughout the East Coast to collect bulk cash and deposit the bulk cash into domestic bank accounts set up through a web of “funnel” bank accounts. Once the bulk cash was deposited into the funnel bank accounts, co-conspirators, under the direction of Reynoso and others, conducted international wire transfers of the funds to Mexican bank accounts associated with false companies in Mexico controlled by the money laundering organization.
Lopez-Albarran was arrested on February 9, 2018 in San Diego and remains in federal custody. Reynoso and four of his co-defendants were also arrested between January 11, 2018, and January 17, 2018, in San Diego. Sixteen of the remaining defendants charged in San Diego have been arrested in Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and elsewhere. Five additional defendants were already in custody for previously charged crimes and will be transferred to the Southern District of California to be arraigned in the coming days.
In addition, approximately 35 other defendants have been charged in connection with this investigation in other jurisdictions including the Southern District of Ohio, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Kansas, and the Eastern District of Washington.
“We have siphoned the cash and the life out of a San Diego-based international money laundering organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “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.”
“These types of complex investigations, spanning across the nation and our international boundaries, requires a fundamental change in how we share information, coordinate and collaborate. These joint investigations, where shared awareness and decentralized execution was the norm, can and must be how we disrupt these drug trafficking and money laundering networks in the future,” said Special Agent in Charge John A. Brown of the San Diego Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “This case model is built upon the incredible collaboration of the federal, state, and local partners across the United States and in Mexico. Today, this case exemplifies how dedicated collaboration equals success.”
“Taking on and stopping transnational criminal organizations requires dedication and sacrifice,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We worked collaboratively with our law enforcement partners and dedicated key resources over a two-year period. As a result, this undercover operation has brought down high-level cartel associates and stopped the distribution of dangerous drugs like heroin and fentanyl in San Diego and cities across the U.S.”
“When drug traffickers amass large quantities of cash from narcotics sales, they often attempt to transfer and/or legitimize these ill-gotten profits through the use of banks and financial institutions,” said Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “This joint investigation continues to demonstrate our efforts to ensure that the financial services industry will not be abused by large-scale narcotics traffickers, but will be operated in a fair and honest manner to promote the public interest.”
U.S. Attorney Braverman also praised federal, state, and local law enforcement for the coordinated team effort in the culmination of this investigation. This case was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cross Border Violence Task Force (CBVTF). The CBVTF is a FBI-led task force comprised of federal and local law enforcement from the FBI, San Diego District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, San Diego County Sheriff’s Office and the Chula Vista Police Department. Agents and officers from the IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service and the California Highway Patrol also provided vital assistance. Attorneys from the Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, Electronic Surveillance Unit, likewise provided critical work as part of the investigative team. He also thanked our vital foreign partners – Mexican Federal Police, Mexico’s Procuraduria General de la Republic (PGR) and Mexican Financial Intelligence Agency (Unidad de Inteligencia Financial – UIF).
This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.
The United States is represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J. Sutton, David J. Rawls, and Blanca Quintero.
TOGETHER WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Dean James III% AMERICA’S FREEDOM FIGHTERS
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