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International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section (INMLRS)

Section Overview

The section focuses on investigations and prosecutions of international and significant domestic narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations, violent local criminal street gangs, and both traditional and emerging transnational organized criminal enterprises. Using the full panoply of federal drug trafficking, money laundering, other financial and tax, racketeering, and frauds laws, AUSAs in the section work on cases which are part of the OCDETF National Program and target the leaders and associates of the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (“CJNG”), and affiliated drug trafficking syndicates, as well as criminal networks which import heroin, fentanyl, and chemical precursors, often manufactured in Chinese clandestine laboratories, through the borders, ports, and mail systems. The section is at the national forefront of combating the opioids epidemic, working with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute “dirty doctors,” pharmacies, and street-level and whole-sale distributors, as well as websites which facilitate the distribution of hydrocodone and oxycodone and other drugs, particularly where such distribution results in serious bodily harm or overdose death. In addition, AUSAs in the section have developed an expertise in investigating and prosecuting transnational organized criminal groups and domestic vendors who distribute narcotics and launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the dark web and the use of crypto-currency. The section seeks to dismantle entire drug trafficking organizations and transnational organized criminal enterprises including by attacking their ability to utilize financial systems and methods outside of such traditional systems like the “hawala” to transfer their ill-gotten gains. The section prosecutes sweeping international money laundering conspiracies and handles cases involving money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, and other economic sanctions violations as well as the forfeiture of crime proceeds and assets. The section has prosecuted Consolidated Priority Organizational Targets (“CPOTs”) and various drug kingpins who have been extradited to the United States to face substantial prison sentences. The section is an active participant in the Department of Justice’s priority program of combating violent crime by aggressively using the Racketeer and Influence Corrupt Organization, drug trafficking, and money laundering statutes to prosecute the Mexican Mafia prison gang and its affiliated violent Hispanic street gangs which distribute narcotics in local communities and in the incarceration systems.

AUSAs in the section work with various federal and local law enforcement entities, including DEA, FBI, DHS, ATF, IRS, the Coast Guard, the United States Marshals, task forces such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”), the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Los Angeles Police Department and other local police departments, and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the section also actively works with foreign prosecutors and law enforcement agency counterparts in order to investigate, prosecute, and extradite foreign nationals as well as United States citizens who commit crimes abroad. AUSAs in the section regular engage in community outreach as part of the office’s anti-drug and anti-gang efforts.

Section Leadership

Shawn Nelson

Mr. Nelson joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in 2005 as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Department of Justice’s premier program to address violent and gun crimes. He served as the Office’s coordinator for that program from 2007 to 2013. Mr. Nelson spearheaded an increase in prosecutions of violent crime and gun crime, and particularly led a drive against illegal manufacturing and dealing in firearms. His significant cases include the prosecution, closure, and forfeiture of Boulevard Sales and Service, which was the District’s number one sources of crime guns, as well as the prosecution of Joseph Roh and Rohg Industries in one of the first prosecutions of self-made firearms.

Mr. Nelson has also handled some of the largest international drug trafficking and racketeering cases in the District. In 2010, he prosecuted the sixty-defendant operation Red Rein, which targeted drug and firearms dealers in the City of Wilmington. In 2012, he prosecuted two dozen members of the Los Amables drug trafficking organization in Pomona, California, which was connected to the La Familia Michoacana cartel. In 2018, he led the indictment of 83 Mexican Mafia members and associates for their control of drug sales and violence in the Los Angeles County Jail, the City of Pomona, and other prisons and neighborhoods. In 2020, he charged 21 defendants connected to “Plaza Bosses” in Tijuana, Mexico who were smuggling dozens of pounds of methamphetamine into the United States hidden in spare tires.

Mr. Nelson has also served as a supervisor in the General Crimes Section and was Deputy Chief of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section since 2017. He also served as the lead and coordinating attorney of the Los Angeles Cartel Strike Force while it brought some of the most impactful drug trafficking and money laundering cases in the country. He also helped establish the El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force with Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service. This task force is responsible for attacking money laundering and other international financial crimes that impact the Central District of California as well as the entire nation.

He is a regular faculty member at the Department of Justice’s National Training Center in Columbia, South Carolina, where he teaches trial advocacy, violent crime prosecution, firearms prosecution, and drug prosecution. Mr. Nelson obtained his law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and his undergraduate degree from California State University, Fullerton.

Recent Cases

October 20, 2022
Press Release
Canadian Man Sentenced to 14½ Years in Federal Prison for Leading Drug Trafficking Ring that Exported Truckloads of Narcotics

October 14, 2022
Press Release
North Hollywood Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Illegally Selling Firearms, Including ‘Ghost Guns’ and Methamphetamine

October 12, 2022
Press Release
Brother of Former L.A. City Councilman José Huizar Admits Lying to Investigators about Converting Cash to Checks for Ousted Politician

September 20, 2022
Press Release
Clothing Wholesaler Agrees to Plead Guilty to Violating U.S. Drug Trafficking Sanctions and Committing $6.4 Million Customs Fraud

September 19, 2022
Press Release
Willowbrook Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Robbery Spree He Committed While on Supervised Release for Prior Bank Robbery Conviction


The United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California
Criminal Division
Attn: International Narcotics, Money Laundering, & Racketeering Section
312 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Updated December 2, 2022