Over Par and Under Arrest: Golf Co. Execs Busted
FEB 27 -- (SAN DIEGO) - DEA, IRS and U.S. Marshals officials arrested the CEO of Diamond Golf Company, his wife, and two employees Thursday, February 21, on several money laundering charges in connection with drug proceeds stemming from the cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana plants.
According to the indictment, Peter Carlo Mertens, 50, of Fallbrook, Calif., was the CEO of Diamond Golf Company during a check-for-cash scheme to launder drug proceeds; and Wayne Joseph Fernandes, 53, of San Marcos, Calif., and William Hamman, 70, of Murrietta, Calif. were accountants also involved in the scheme at the Vista-based company.
Also arrested and named in the 40-count indictment is Bettina Thakore, who is married to Mertens, the company’s owner.
The investigation revealed that from February 2003 to July 2005, the defendants laundered approximately $500,000 of Ian Mahon’s drug proceeds by issuing business checks on behalf of Diamond Golf Company to Mahon for a seven percent fee.
Mahon, who lived in Carlsbad at the time, pleaded guilty to conspiracy drug and money laundering charges in 2005 after DEA agents raided several of his other residences located in Valley Center which he used to grow hundreds of marijuana plants.
Following Mahon’s arrest, Mertens, Fernandes, and Hamman also attempted to cover up the check-for-cash scheme by claiming that Mahon was an independent contractor who worked for Peter Carlo Mertens, when, in fact, Mahon never worked for Mertens or any of his companies.
"Finding out that a money trail of illegal drug profits leads to greedy and corrupt business executives has become par for the course for DEA. Money laundering is a complex operation that requires a considerable amount of detail to cover one's tracks; so it comes as no surprise that drug traffickers are drawn to the corporate world when looking to funnel their illegal profits,” said Ralph W. Partridge, Special Agent in Charge, DEA San Diego Division. “DEA will continue to follow the money trail and bring to justice all those responsible for spreading illicit drugs in our communities."
United States Attorney Hewitt said, “This indictment reflects the government’s unwavering commitment to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking at all stages and to eradicate the profits that inspire it.”
“Individuals who participate in sophisticated schemes to structure, conceal, and launder profits from illegal drug activity risk prosecution and the forfeiture of their assets,” said Debra D. King, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “IRS Special Agents will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners in an effort to combat illegal drug activity.”
United States Attorney Hewitt praised the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort during the course of this investigation.
Several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies assisted in this OCDETF investigation, including DEA, IRS, San Diego Narcotics Task Force, and the United States Marshals Service. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking.
If convicted the defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.