Cartel Money Laundering Cell Arrested
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Law enforcement officials have arrested a total of nine individuals alleging they violated the laws of the United States by moving money undetected through the United States banking system from Florida to Texas into Mexico, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Janice Ayala, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio.
Those arrested include Oscar J. Aguilar, 37, Yurixi Guadalupe Vega-Martinez, 29, Bea Marie Fairbanks, 24, Mayte Ayde Diaz, 39, Lorena M. Moreno-Martinez, 39, Teodosa Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 32, and Yezenia V. Campos-Silva, 31, all of Brownsville, and Yamileth Sinai Carballo, 20, and Miguel Jonathan Pereira, 21, both of Bayview. They are expected to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan tomorrow morning.
Jose M. Rivera, 26, of Brownsville, is also charged but not as yet in custody. He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423).
The 21-count indictment was returned under seal Oct. 22, 2013, and unsealed upon the arrests today.
“Those individuals arrested today are members of a money laundering organization that allegedly orchestrated the movement of millions of dollars in illicit proceeds in an attempt to circumvent law enforcement and reap their illicit gains abroad,” said Ayala. “HSI is dedicated to dismantling suspected transnational criminal organizations, seizing their assets and severing their financial life line.”
The alleged money laundering cell opened bank accounts at Bank of America in Brownsville and then sent their account numbers to unknown individuals in Florida, according to allegations. There, the unknown individuals would allegedly deposit cash in amounts under the $10,000 reporting requirement for cash transactions. The indictment alleges that on the same day, defendants in Brownsville would then withdraw the cash in amounts under the $10,000 reporting requirement. They allegedly kept a portion of the cash as their payment and then gave the bulk of the money to another individual for it to be walked across the border at ports of entry in Brownsville. The scheme allegedly occurred from on or about November 2008 through December 2012.
The indictment indicates the money was proceeds of illegal narcotics sales belonging Mexican drug trafficking organizations including the Gulf Cartel.
All are charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business which carries as possible punishment a maximum five-year-term of imprisonment and $250,000 fine on each count. All are also charged with varying counts of structuring withdrawals at a financial institution which also carries the same five years and $250,000 fine on each charge, upon conviction. However, if is determined the financial scheme involved more than $100,000, then the punishment is up to 10 years imprisonment and the same $250,000 fine. Aguilar, Diaz and Moreno-Martinez are also charge with conspiracy to commit international money laundering and further face 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.
The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture against the defendants for $1,893,170, alleged proceeds from the criminal activity.
Today’s arrests came as a result of a year-long investigation by HSI, Financial Crimes Group with the assistance of U.S. Marshals Service, Border Patrol, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and the Brownsville Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen Betancourt.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.