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California - Southern District Drug Threat Assessment 
December 2000

Appendix: Drug-Related Financial Crimes

DTOs continue to use the same money laundering methods as in the past. Law enforcement reports indicate that drug proceeds are often smuggled in bulk shipments to Mexico. Some of the means used to move the currency include tractor-trailers, privately owned vehicles, private aircraft, watercraft, parcel delivery services, and courier. Other methods preferred by money launderers in Southern California include the use of seemingly legitimate businesses and wire services. Intelligence reporting indicates that the San Diego area is both a destination and a transshipment point for bulk shipments of currency. EPIC reports that bulk seizures of cash destined for California have decreased but that seizures of cash from individuals at San Diego Airport continue to increase as do seizures from mail service centers in the San Diego area.

Several incidents demonstrate the methods by which money may be moved into the San Diego area. In December 1999, officers seized $78,475 from a male resident of New Orleans. He was traveling by train from New Orleans to San Diego. In March 2000, the DEA Field Division interdiction team seized three boxes containing $699,930. The money was destined for Mexico. California Highway Patrol officers seized $142,329 from a female Mexican national in April 2000. She was traveling southbound on I5 in San Diego County en route from Los Angeles to Mexicali. The currency was concealed inside the rear seat of the vehicle. In 1999, seizures of currency exceeded $16 million as reported by the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, DEA, FBI, USBP, and USCS.

The volume of Reports of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (CMIRs) filed at California POEs is an indication that bulk currency smuggled into Mexico may have reentered the U.S. financial system legally. A report from CBAG states that in 1998 CMIR declarations averaged $168,000 and that over $560 million legally entered the United States at the California-Mexico border. Over a period of 11 months in 1999, over $590 million in currency was declared at California POEs.


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