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Baton Rouge Convenience Store Forfeits Nearly $1 Million as the Result of a DEA/IRS Money Laundering Investigation

MARCH 15 (BATON ROUGE, La.) – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that KATELYN & CLAIRE, INC. and ALEX T, INC., both doing business as Quality Express, pled guilty before United States District Court Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and multiple counts of failure to file Currency Transaction Reports as part of a drug and money laundering investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.  The corporations also agreed to forfeit to the United States $992,462.40, which were funds involved in the charged offenses.

Quality Express, which is located on Foster Drive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offered check cashing, currency exchanges and money transfers.  Between March 2010 and April 2011, an undercover agent, working at the direction of the DEA and IRS, provided more than $275,000 in United States currency to agents of Quality Express to be exchanged or transferred so that it could be more easily concealed and avoid detection by law enforcement. The money was represented to be drug proceeds.  To further conceal the currency exchanges and transfers, Quality Express and its agents failed to file Currency Transaction Reports that would have reflected the receipt of United States Currency, on six separate occasions, in amounts ranging from $12,000 to $90,000.  The defendants believed that the money was proceeds from drug trafficking.

DEA Acting Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Tony James stated, “The DEA, in conjunction with the IRS and local law enforcement agencies, will continue to pursue entities that launder drug trafficking funds in order to fully dismantle drug trafficking organizations’ ability to pollute the city of Baton Rouge with drugs.”

United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “This plea along with the nearly one million dollar money forfeiture here should send a clear message to any businesses, which attempts to help drug dealers and any other criminals launder the proceeds of their illegal actions, that we will not tolerate these acts in the Middle District of Louisiana.”

Damon Rowe, Acting IRS Special Agent-in-Charge, stated that “avoiding currency reporting requirements is a criminal violation of federal law under the Bank Secrecy Act.  Deliberately avoiding these requirements is a form of money laundering; and IRS Criminal Investigation will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and our law enforcement counterparts, to forcefully investigate these conspiracies.”

Thang Minh Tran, also known as Tommy, had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering.  Tran was one of the operators of Quality Express, and he used the business to facilitate the money laundering.  Former Quality Express employees Than Nguyen, also known as Money, and Son Nguyen, also known as Tattoo, previously pled guilty to distribution of MDMA, more commonly known as Ecstasy.

This investigation was conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.  The Baton Rouge Police Department, West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and Gonzales Police Department assisted in the investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer M. Kleinpeter and J. Lane Ewing, Jr.

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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