U.S. Announces Indictment of Heads of Colombia's D.M.G. Group for Money Laundering
MAR 19 -- JOHN P. GILBRIDE, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Field Division (“DEA”), LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, RAYMOND W. KELLY, Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”) and HARRY J. CORBITT, Superintendent New York State Police (“NYPD”) announced today the unsealing of an Indictment against DAVID EDUARDO HELMUT MURCIA GUZMÁN, 28, MARGARITA LEONOR PABON CASTRO, a/k/a "Margarita Castro Pabon," 35, WILLIAM SUÁREZ‑SUÁREZ, 41, DANIEL ANGEL RUEDA, 36, LUIS FERNANDO CEDIEL ROZO, a/k/a "Luis Fernando Sudiel Rosso," 34, SANTIAGO BARANCHUK‑RUEDA, a/k/a "Santiago Baranchuk," a/k/a "Santiago Rueda," 34, and GERMAN ENRIQUE SERRANO‑REYES, 45, (collectively, the “defendants”) on charges relating to their alleged roles in the laundering of narcotics proceeds through Colombian marketing giant D.M.G. Group. MURCIA GUZMÁN, PABON CASTRO, and ANGEL RUEDA have been in the custody of the Colombian government since November 2008, and SUÁREZ-SUÁREZ has been in the custody of the Colombian government since January 2009.
According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
MURCIA GUZMÁN created the D.M.G. Group (hereinafter “DMG,” which are MURCIA GUZMÁN’s initials) in 2003, as a vehicle for a multi‑level marketing scheme, through which customers could purchase pre-paid debit cards to purchase electronics and other items at retail stores operated by DMG. PABON CASTRO was a legal advisor to DMG and sat on the boards of several DMG-affiliated companies; SUÁREZ‑SUÁREZ headed the Colombian operations of DMG, and was responsible for the attempted bribery of Colombian officials; ANGEL RUEDA headed DMG’s public relations department; BARANCHUK-RUEDA worked for DMG in Mexico; and CEDIEL ROZO is married to PABON CASTRO.
Over the years, MURCIA GUZMÁN, with help of PABON CASTRO, SUÁREZ‑SUÁREZ, and ANGEL RUEDA, established hundreds of subsidiary and affiliated companies linked to DMG in countries including Colombia, Panama, and the United States. DMG sold prepaid debit cards to customers in Latin America, who in turn acted as affiliated salespeople for DMG. In exchange for its debit cards, DMG received large quantities of cash in the form of Colombian pesos from its Latin American customers. By 2008, DMG’s customers numbered approximately 400,000.
DMG is alleged to have laundered narcotics proceeds through the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange (the "BMPE"), an informal value transfer system used to launder illicitly-obtained dollars in the United States, in exchange for pesos taken in for “legitimate” purchases in Colombia. According to the Indictment, in the fall of 2007, MURCIA GUZMÁN and PABON CASTRO approached another individual in Colombia (identified in the Indictment as “CS-1”), and told CS-1 that they had cash - which turned out to be U.S. dollars + that they could not deposit into the Colombian banking system; MURCIA GUZMÁN and PABON CASTRO asked CS-1 to set up an account in the United States in which these funds could be deposited. Acting on these instructions, CS-1 opened an account at Merrill Lynch in the United States, under the name “Blackstone International Development” (the “Merrill Lynch Account”). Neither MURCIA GUZMÁN nor PABON CASTRO were listed as owners of the Merrill Lynch Account.
In March 2008, MURCIA GUZMÁN and PABON CASTRO told CS-1 that they had provided $2.2 million worth of Colombian Pesos to GERMAN SERRANO in Colombia, and, in exchange, GERMAN SERRANO had caused the nearly $2.2 million to be wired into the Merrill Lynch Account. Subsequently, in approximately eighteen separate wire transfers between March 11, 2008 and May 9, 2008, a total of $2,188,727.86 in U.S. dollars was deposited into the Merrill Lynch Account. In May 2008, the United States Government seized $2,188.727.86 from the Merrill Lynch Account pursuant to a court order. When he was informed of the seizure of the Account, MURCIA GUZMÁN told CS-1 that he should not attempt to retrieve the contents of the Account, and should not under any circumstances inform the authorities of MURCIA GUZMÁN’s or PABON CASTRO’s interest in the Account.
The Indictment also alleges that other DMG-affiliated defendants, including MURCIA GUZMÁN, BARANCHUK-RUEDA, ANGEL RUEDA and CEDIEL ROZO, coordinated the pick-up and transportation of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds in Mexico. Finally, the Indictment alleges that some of the DMG-affiliated defendants, including MURCIA GUZMÁN, BARANCHEK-RUEDA, and ANGEL RUEDA, hid narcotics proceeds by investing them in real estate and limited liability companies in the United States.
If convicted, each defendant faces maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment. The case is assigned to United States District Judge [will fill in after judge is wheeled out tomorrow].
The United States has served upon the Government of Colombia requests for the provisional arrests of the defendants pending extradition. MURCIA GUZMÁN, PABON CASTRO, SUÁREZ‑SUÁREZ, and ANGEL RUEDA are already in Colombian custody on fraud-related Colombian charges. CEDIEL ROZO, BARANCHUK-RUEDA, and SERRANO-REYES have not been arrested.
Mr. Dassin praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA, working together as part of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (the “Task Force”). The Task Force is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police. Mr. Dassin also thanked the Colombian government and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs for its ongoing assistance.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics Trafficking Unit and its Narcotics Unit, with assistance of the Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys BENJAMIN A. NAFTALIS, NICHOLAS J. LEWIN, TELEMACHUS P. KASULIS, and AMY LESTER are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.