News and Press Releases

SIXTEEN INDICTED IN BLACK MARKET MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2010

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Investigations, Miami Field Office, announced an indictment charging sixteen individuals with conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds using the Venezuelan Black Market. Indicted were defendants Herman Rafael Solorzano Caguaripano, 58, and his son, Herman Alejandro Solorzano Rincon, 32, Georges Toutounji, 50, Fortunato Farache, 55, Douglas Enrique Sanchez Soto, 60, Edgar Hadad Azraca, 48, and Alba Villalobos Vergel, 61, all of Doral, FL, Alfredo Ramon Soto Diaz, 42, Miguel Jose Perez Rivero, 32, Luis Enrique Homez Garcia, 36, and Henry Eduardo Bilbao Movilla, 61, all of Miami, FL, Rafael Polanco, 38, of Hollywood, FL, Antoine Jean Melhem, 51, of Coral Gables, FL, Johan Alberto Rincon Medina, 58, of Pembroke Pines, FL, Nercido Sosa Medina, 58 of New York, and Luis Rafael Diaz Plaza, 41, of Puerto Rico. ICE special agents arrested most of the defendants earlier today and they are scheduled to appear in court on Friday, April 2, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton.

In September 2008, ICE special agents assigned to the Miami Special Agent in Charge Financial Investigations Group initiated an investigation into financial transactions involving the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.

According to the indictment and previously filed complaints, the defendants would receive contracts to pick-up narcotics proceeds in Puerto Rico and New York and then smuggle the money to South Florida. Once the currency was picked-up in Puerto Rico or New York, it was secured in hotel room safes and in locked bags kept in the hotel room. Members of the conspiracy would then secretly transport the currency, usually in $100,000 increments, via commercial air, to South Florida. The money would be divided into smaller amounts to avoid the possible seizure of all the currency if detected by law enforcement. Once in Miami, the money was either deposited in various bank accounts in the names of nominees or delivered to individuals in South Florida.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, “Drug traffickers need to launder their money to continue and expand their drug operations. Recently, we saw how traffickers exploited weaknesses in our banking system to launder billions of potential drug proceeds. Today, we see another example of traffickers using South Florida to launder millions in drug proceeds. We will continue to use our expertise in financial cases to follow the money, with the goal of depriving drug traffickers of their illicit gains.”

ICE Special Agent in Charge Anthony V. Mangione said, “ICE has taken a leading role to focus our efforts on targeting the individuals and criminal organizations involved in the flow of large quantities of illicit money across the U.S. border. The black market bolivar exchange is an example of the sophisticated and complex systems used by drug trafficking organizations to launder narcotics proceeds. ICE’s financial investigations are designed to target, disrupt, and dismantle these payment systems which are a threat to the financial infrastructure of the United States.”

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $7,000,000. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of twenty years in prison. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard.

Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami with the assistance of ICE’s Office of Investigations in San Juan and New York, Office of the ICE Attaché Caribbean, the Miami Dade Police Department, the Broward County Money Laundering Task Force, the Florida City Police Department, City of Indian Creek Police Department, the Doral Police Department, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department Forensic Imaging Bureau. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Gonzalez.

An Indictment is only an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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