Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Seizure Of Over $31 Million In Connection With An International Drug Trafficking And Money Laundering Scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Brian R. Crowell, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced the seizure of over $31 million from nine bank accounts in the United States, which are alleged to have been connected to an international money laundering scheme run by a drug trafficking organization operated by members of the Sanchez-Paredes family (the “Sanchez-Paredes DTO”), a family that Peruvian law enforcement authorities have been investigating since the early 1980s. A civil forfeiture Complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court alleges that members of the Sanchez-Paredes DTO have used the bank accounts of shell companies and other businesses to layer and disguise the family’s illegal cocaine proceeds for decades. The funds in the nine American bank accounts were seized pursuant to seizure warrants issued in September 2012. Additional funds in three Peruvian bank accounts have also been frozen.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “While this allegedly notorious drug trafficking family may be beyond our reach, the proceeds from their decade’s long money laundering scheme are not. With this forfeiture complaint, we continue to take the profit out of crime by seizing $31 million that allegedly represents the proceeds from their international narco-trafficking.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Brian R. Crowell stated: “This organization worked as a family business and thought they would live comfortable lives based on cash earned from the sale of cocaine. Ruining lives for the sake of increasing bank accounts is not tolerated by our law enforcement partners worldwide.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:
The Peruvian National Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation of the Sanchez-Paredes DTO in approximately 1981. This multi-decade investigation culminated in a criminal complaint, which was filed in April 2010 and is currently pending in Peru. At least two members of the Sanchez-Paredes family, both of whom were in the business of supplying cocaine to drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico, were assassinated in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a result of their involvement in international narcotics trafficking. Prior to being assassinated, they had amassed millions of dollars in drug money. Since their deaths, their sons and siblings have carried on their narcotics trafficking activities.
Peruvian law enforcement authorities believe that the Sanchez-Paredes DTO has financed various businesses, including mining companies, farms, real estate investments, transportation companies, vehicle repair shops and heavy equipment sales, for the purpose of laundering many millions of dollars in narcotics trafficking proceeds. In fact, the Sanchez-Paredes DTO is unable to prove the legal origin of at least $52 million in revenues that were supposedly generated by these businesses. For example, the Sanchez-Paredes DTO owns two mining companies, CIA Minera Aurifera Santa Rosa SA (“Comarsa”), and CIA Minera San Simon (“San Simon”), which purport to be in the business of mining gold, but are believed to be in the business of producing cocaine. In March 2007, Peruvian authorities seized approximately 125 tons of calcium oxide, a chemical used to both mine gold and produce cocaine, that were later identified as having been purchased by Comarsa and San Simon. Comarsa’s mining records show that on numerous occasions, the amount of calcium oxide it used did not correspond with the amounts needed to process gold. This suggests that Comarsa is not actually involved in the business of mining gold, but rather in the business of producing cocaine. Other companies managed by the Sanchez-Paredes DTO appear to be nothing more than shell companies, created for the sole purpose of laundering drug money.
Members of the Sanchez-Paredes DTO have used multiple bank accounts, including the 12 bank accounts named in the Complaint, to launder narcotics proceeds derived from the family’s cocaine operation. The accounts used and manipulated by the family for money laundering purposes include accounts which are held by: individual family members; companies owned and operated by the family members; employees of the family’s business; and other companies that are believed to be involved in money laundering activity. Among the accounts used by the Sanchez-Paredes DTO for their illicit activities are bank accounts held by Republic Metals and Italpreziosi SPA, precious metals companies based in the United States and Italy, respectively.
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Mr. Bharara thanked the DEA for its leadership and work on this investigation, which he noted is ongoing. He also thanked the Office of International Affairs, the Peruvian National Prosecutor’s Office, and the U.S. Department of State for their assistance. Mr. Crowell expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the DEA Peru Country Office, Ambassador Rose M. Likins, the Southern District of New York United States Attorney’s Office and the DEA Financial Investigation Team.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant U. S. Attorney Sarah E. Paul is in charge of the case.