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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 13, 2023

Two Thornton Women Sentenced for Money Laundering Related to a Denver-area Drug Trafficking Operation

DENVER - The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announces that Maria Aurora Garcia-Paulino, age 41, of Thornton, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for money laundering related to a Denver-area drug trafficking operation. Co-defendant Laura Iveth Trujillo-Solano, age 44, of Thornton, was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering.

In February 2021, Garcia-Paulino and Trujillo-Solano were named in a 13-person indictment for a conspiracy to launder funds derived from the distribution of heroin, fentanyl pills, and methamphetamine in the Denver area. According to the plea agreements, from April 10, 2020 through March 31, 2021, Garcia-Paulino and Trujillo-Solano controlled a series of businesses in a strip mall located at 88th Ave. and Washington St. in Thornton, Colorado, which included Fiesta Multiservices. These two defendants would receive the proceeds from the drug activity at Fiesta Multiservices, typically in large currency amounts. As part of their operation, before transferring the money to Mexico they would divide the funds into smaller increments to evade various reporting and identification requirements imposed by money service businesses. According to court documents, from April 10, 2020, to January 28, 2021, Trujillo-Solano transferred or directed the transfer of drug trafficking proceeds totaling between $3,500,000 and $9,500,000 from the business in Thornton, and Garcia-Paulino handled or aided in the transfer of between $250,000 and $550,000 of that amount.

Judge Daniel D. Domenico sentenced Garcia-Paulino on January 10, 2023. She is the last of her co-defendants in federal custody to be sentenced. Judge Domenico sentenced Trujillo-Solano on December 8, 2022. Marduk Ernesto Ruiz-Leon, also listed in the indictment, remains a fugitive.

“These defendants took part in a multi-million dollar money laundering and drug trafficking operation that was shut down because of excellent work by our investigating partners at IRS Criminal Investigations and the DEA,” said United States Attorney Cole Finegan. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute the people who run these types of criminal organizations.”

“IRS Special Agents are experts in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations by targeting their illegal profits used to finance their operations,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation Denver Field Office. “IRS-CI, our law enforcement partners, and the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to work together to eliminate this threat to our communities. Today’s sentence should send a clear message to others who engage in money laundering associated with narcotics, you will be caught and you will be prosecuted.”

“Today’s sentencing affirms DEA’s commitment to attack drug networks from every angle,” said DEA Rocky Mountain Division Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser. “The DEA will continue to use all of its investigative resources to break down criminal enterprises who intend to harm our communities.” 

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Assistant United States Attorney Cyrus Y. Chung handled the prosecution.

This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF is a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

CASE NUMBER: 21-cr-00063

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Deborah Takahara Public Affairs Specialist deborah.takahara@usdoj.gov
Updated January 13, 2023