$20+ Million ‘Black Market Peso Exchange’ Scheme Sends Several To Prison
HOUSTON – One of the leaders and several members of an organization that laundered more than $20 million through “shell” business bank accounts has now been ordered to federal prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Enrique Morales, 43, of Houston and Guadalajara, Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business earlier this year as did Willie Whitehurst, 45, Fulton Smith, 41, and Anthony Foster, 47, all from Houston and money couriers for the organization. Sarah Combs, 49, of Dickinson, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Today, U.S. District Judge U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who accepted the guilty pleas, sentenced Morales, determined to be a leader in the conspiracy, to 188 months in prison. Foster received a sentence of 121 months, while Smith and Combs received total prison terms of 30 and 24 months, respectively. Whitehurst is scheduled to be sentenced on August 26.
In August 2012, a federal grand jury in Houston indicted the five defendants for their parts in a large “Black Market Peso Exchange” scheme. From October 2009 to September 2011, the defendants placed U.S. currency gained through the sale of drugs in U.S. cities into bank accounts held in the name of the organization’s “shell” companies. The money then was transferred to different accounts in the U.S. and in Mexico. In exchange, pesos were transferred back to accounts owned by the organization’s clients.
Smith, Combs and Foster were permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Morales will remain in custody.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ted Imperato of the Southern District of Texas and Trial Attorney Keith Liddle of the Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section are prosecuting the case.