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Last of Los Zetas Money Launderers Ordered to Prison

MAR 25 (LAREDO, Texas) - Laredoans Laurencio Montes, 43, and Jose Luis Gonzales, 28, have been sent to federal prison for their roles in an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation relating to the laundering of millions of drug proceeds by Los Zetas, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña along with United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Montes, aka “Yeyo,” and Gonzalez each entered a plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds on Oct. 30, 2012. 

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo sentenced Montes, considered to be an organizer, to 120 months in federal prison. A final order of forfeiture was further ordered in the amount of $6 million against him. Gonzales, determined to be a minimal participant in the conspiracy, received a 60-month term of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. The court entered a final order of forfeiture against Gonzales in the amount of $2,999,319.

OCDETF Operation El Chacal was initiated in 2010 and culminated in several indictments being returned in November 2011 in Laredo and San Antonio as well as Chicago, Ill. Agents had identified a Los Zetas cell leader of a significant money laundering organization based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico who laundered drug proceeds for the Zeta drug trafficking organization. The investigation revealed the organization shipped multiple loads of cocaine from Mexico to major distribution centers in the United States such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Pa., and Dallas.

The organization fronted the cocaine loads to distributors and, after the sale and distribution of the drugs, awaited the collection of drug proceeds and resulting payments. A co-conspirator based in Chicago distributed the cocaine and collected the proceeds, while co-conspirators in Dallas and Chicago collected, stored and prepared the drug proceeds for transportation to Laredo and Eagle Pass and then into Mexico.

During the course of the investigation, a total of approximately $21 million was seized from various tractor trailer drivers, other couriers and stash homes in Texas and Illinois which was destined to be transported into Mexico for delivery to the Zeta drug trafficking organization.

Montes was identified as a co-conspirator who recruited  truck drivers to transport bulk cash drug proceeds for the Organization and coordinated the cash deliveries from the Chicago area to Laredo totaling approximately $6 million. Gonzales was identified as a facilitator who assisted his brother-in-law and co-defendant Nelson Casarez at a Laredo truck yard where bulk cash was delivered by truck drivers. Gonzales assisted Casarez in receiving the money in Laredo and safekeeping it until other co-conspirators were sent to pick it up and transport it to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

These sentencings mark the sixth and seventh defendants to be convicted and sentenced in Laredo relating to this indictment.

Other co-defendants who have entered  pleas of guilty to the money laundering conspiracy and have been sentenced include Casarez, 35, Josue Alejandro Salinas, 22, Miguel Santos, 42, all of Laredo; David Villarreal, 40, a Mexican National; and  Jose Vasquez, 44, a Honduran National. 

Judge Marmolejo sentenced Vasquez, Villarreal and Salinas to respective terms of 87, 97 and 84 months in September 2012. The next month, Casarez received a sentence of 108 months and was assessed a $5,000 fine, while Santos was ordered to serve a 72-month term of imprisonment. Final orders of forfeiture were also entered against all men ranging from nearly $1.5 million to $4 million. 

The case was investigated by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary Lou Castillo.

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