News and Press Releases

Operation Targeting Colombian Narcotics Money Launderers Results in Seizure of More than 400 Bank Accounts

November 19, 2009

Warrants were executed over the past two weeks for approximately 375 bank accounts, authorizing the seizure of approximately $3,200,000 in alleged narcotics proceeds as part of Operation Black Market Peso Sweep, an ongoing initiative targeting narcotics money launderers. Previous seizure warrants executed as part of the same operation resulted in the seizure of an additional 35 bank accounts containing approximately $1,200,000, and another $1,350,000 in seized cash.

The seizures were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and John Morton, Assistant Secretary, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security (“ICE”). The operation was spearheaded by the El Dorado Task Force, a multi-agency group led by ICE and specializing in the investigation of money laundering violations.

The Black Market Peso Exchange (“BMPE”) is the primary method used by Colombian narcotics traffickers to launder their illicit funds. The BMPE is an illegal currency exchange system which uses narcotic distribution proceeds in the United States to pay for goods that are then shipped to Colombia. The recipients in Colombia pay for those goods in pesos, which are then forwarded to the narcotics traffickers. The system allows narcotics traffickers to launder and transport their narcotics dollars through the United States financial system by utilizing domestic accounts held by businesses or individuals doing business in the United States. The recent seizures are aimed at disrupting and destroying the flow of these narcotics dollars by targeting the domestic accounts and the entities that receive these illicit funds.

“Money launderers, and those who facilitate them, provide the lifeblood of drug traffickers,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “Disrupting their operations is an essential part of ridding our neighborhoods and streets from the scourge of drug trafficking.”

“The seizure of more than 400 bank accounts in this case is an outstanding example of how the federal government is hitting drug lords where it hurts them the most, in their bank accounts,” said ICE Assistant Secretary Morton. “The multi-agency El Dorado Task Force has had a significant and successful track record, making more than 2,000 arrests and seizing nearly $600 million in illegal proceeds since its inception in 1992.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Evan Weitz and Alex Solomon.

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