Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Thursday, May 29, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Three Colombian Nationals Sentenced in Money Laundering Conspiracy

WASHINGTON – Three Colombian nationals – Ricardo Mauricio Bernal Palacios, 41, Juan Manuel Bernal Palacios, 47, and Camilo Andres Ortiz Echeverri, 38 – have been sentenced in connection with their guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit money laundering and 47 substantive counts of money laundering, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew W. Friedrich and U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida, announced today.

On May 22, 2008, Judge Gold sentenced Mauricio Bernal Palacios to 210 months in prison, Juan Bernal Palacios to 135 months in prison and Ortiz Echeverri to 105 months in prison. All three defendants were also ordered, collectively, to forfeit approximately $3 million in laundered funds. The defendants had previously pleaded guilty to the money laundering charges in August 2007. Upon completion of their sentences, all three defendants will be deported to Colombia.

Mauricio Bernal Palacios, Juan Bernal Palacios and Ortiz Echeverri were charged in an indictment unsealed on March 6, 2006, that alleged from 2002 to 2006, the defendants laundered drug proceeds through the United States for the purpose of promoting cocaine distribution rings operating internationally in Colombia, Mexico and Europe. The indictment identifies more than $3 million of drug proceeds which were laundered through U.S. banks. The conspiracy to launder money included the use of Mexican casas de cambio (money exchange houses), the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange, and U.S. bank accounts to transfer drug proceeds from Europe and Mexico to the drug traffickers in Colombia. The defendants were arrested on March 2, 2006, by law enforcement authorities in Bogotá, Colombia, pursuant to arrest warrants. The defendants were subsequently extradited to face the charges in U.S. District Court in Miami.

This case is the result of the combined efforts of U.S. law enforcement and Colombian, Mexican and Spanish authorities. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was prosecuted by Assistant Chief Mia Levine of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Lacosta of the Southern District of Florida, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.