Multiple Defendants Sentenced for International Money Laundering Conspiracy
Anchorage, Alaska – United States Attorney Karen Loeffler announced that four defendants were sentenced in the past week for their roles in an international conspiracy to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking.
On Monday, March 31, 2014, United States District Judge Timothy M. Burgess sentenced Claritza Natera, 45, to serve 24 months in prison. Natera, of Anchorage, pled guilty to international money laundering, admitting that in 2010 and 2011 she repeatedly deposited currency that she knew to be the proceeds of drug trafficking into her bank account in Alaska and then immediately wired the funds to persons in the Dominican Republic. She admitted that she was paid cash for conducting these transactions by a person known to her to be a cocaine dealer and an illegal alien. The court also ordered Natera to forfeit $239,990 to the United States. This amount represents the funds involved in the money laundering conspiracy. The court ordered a money judgment in that amount to be entered against Natera.
Also on Monday, March 31, 2014, Judge Burgess sentenced Joel Paredes Henriquez, 34, to four years of probation and ordered him to forfeit $25,500 to the United States. Joel Paredes Henriquez pled guilty to being a member of an international money laundering conspiracy, admitting that he deposited cash that he received from a man he knew to be an illegal alien and a cocaine dealer in Anchorage into his bank account, and wired the funds to the Dominican Republic. Joel Paredes Henriquez admitted that he wired over $25,000 between March 2010 and February 2011. In a plea agreement filed with the court, the defendant admitted that he knew or believed that the funds sent were the proceeds of or were intended to promote the importation and distribution of a controlled substance. It is a federal crime to transmit funds either domestically or internationally with such knowledge.
Nerido Paredes Henriquez, 38, of Anchorage, was also sentenced on Monday, March 31, 2014. Nerido, the brother of Joel, was sentenced to a three year term of probation and ordered to forfeit $15,400 to the United States. Nerido Paredes Henriquez pled guilty to one count of structuring financial transactions, admitting that he and others made several currency deposits at different bank branches to avoid the currency transaction reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. Federal law requires financial institutions to report currency transactions in excess of $10,000, and it is a federal crime to knowingly avoid those requirements.
Last Thursday, March 27, 2014, Judge Burgess sentenced Randin Paredes Henriquez, 36, to a term of time-served in jail. Randin Paredes Henriquez of Anchorage, the brother of Joel and Nerido Paredes Henriquez, pled guilty to one count of international money laundering. In December 2011, Randin flew from Anchorage to Philadelphia enroute to the Dominican Republic. Customs agents discovered that he was smuggling cash, which he admittedly knew to be the proceeds of cocaine trafficking in Alaska. Cash in the amount of $55,720 was seized and forfeited to the United States. Randin Paredes Henriquez had been in federal custody for approximately two years, since his return to Alaska from the Dominican Republic in March 2012. It is a federal crime to take more than $10,000 in currency or equivalents into or out of the United States without declaring the funds to Customs on arrival or departure.
Earlier last month, on March 14, 2014, Judge Burgess sentenced Concepcion Egea, 57, to four years of probation and fined her $5,000. Egea, of Florida, pled guilty to one count of structuring financial transactions to avoid the currency reporting requirements.
Evidence presented in court established that the defendants shared joint financial accounts, shared an address, and made multiple cash transactions in a single day or over several days at various branches to avoid suspicion. Most of the currency deposits were approximately $5000. The funds were almost always immediately wired to persons in the Dominican Republic. Randin, Joel, and Nerido Paredes Henriquez are lawful permanent residents of the United States, but remain citizens of the Dominican Republic. Concepcion Egea and Claritza Natera are naturalized U.S. citizens, and were formerly citizens of the Dominican Republic.
In a related case, United States v. Joel Santana Pierna, et al., numerous defendants were indicted in 2012 for drug trafficking, tax fraud, identity theft, passport fraud, making false claims of U.S. citizenship, bank fraud, and uttering forged U.S. Treasury checks. Seven defendants have been convicted in that case, including a former Wells Fargo Bank teller who helped facilitate the opening and use of bank accounts in fictitious names. Two defendants in the related indictment are in federal custody awaiting trial, and one remains a fugitive. Another former bank teller was charged and pled guilty in a separate case, admitting that she aided in the negotiation of forged Treasury checks.
“Joel Santana-Pierna ran a criminal enterprise that trafficked cocaine, stole the identities of honest citizens, and attempted to steal millions from the US Treasury by filing fraudulent tax returns. Santana-Pierna and the principle ringleaders of his organization already received stiff prison terms and penalties for their crimes,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve Bellis of IRS Criminal Investigation, Seattle Field Office. “The sentences handed down to Concepcion Egea, Randin Paredes Henriquez, Nerido Paredes Henriquez, Joel Paredes Henriquez, and Claritza Natera should serve as a warning to everyone that it does not pay to flirt with the criminal element. These otherwise law-abiding people got caught up in the money and lifestyle offered to them by Joel Santana-Pierna and his organization. That’s no excuse. Their actions made them criminal conspirators and now they too must pay their debt to society.”
Kevin Feldis, First Assistant U.S. Attorney, emphasized that “Drug dealers and other criminals seek to profit from their illegal activities. Those who facilitate and participate in these criminal activities by laundering drug money and other ill-gotten gain must likewise be held accountable.”
Ms. Loeffler commends the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Drug Enforcement Administration for the investigation leading to the convictions in this case.