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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 27, 2016

Jury Convicts Georgia Woman of Laundering and Structuring More Than $200,000 for California Drug Trafficking Organization

FRESNO, Calif. — After a three day trial, Ashley Starling Thomas, 29, of Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted today by a federal jury of conspiring to launder money, conspiring to structure cash transactions, five counts of money laundering, and four counts of structuring cash transactions, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Thomas moved more than $200,000 in drug money through her bank accounts in a 22-day period in the summer of 2013. Thomas, who resided in Houston, Texas at the time, flew to Northern California on airline tickets paid for by a drug trafficking organization and made cash withdrawals of drug money from her bank accounts at dozens of bank branches in Sacramento, Eureka, and San Francisco. Thomas also traveled to Fresno where the drug trafficking organization was located. All of the cash withdrawals made by Thomas were in amounts less than $10,000, for the purpose of preventing her banks from filing Currency Transaction Reports on her cash withdrawals.

Following her conviction, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered Thomas remanded into custody.

This case is being brought as part of Operation Footprint, a nationwide law enforcement initiative led by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Operation Footprint targets large drug trafficking organizations by identifying the transfer of drug proceeds through financial institutions, bulk cash smuggling and other forms of money transfers. Operation Footprint is focused on bringing criminal charges based on Bank Secrecy Act violations in addition to violations of the Controlled Substances Act and the Money Laundering Control Act.

This case is also the product of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the U.S. by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Vincente A. Tennerelli are prosecuting the case.

Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge O’Neill on August 29, 2015. The maximum statutory penalty for money laundering conspiracy and money laundering is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine (or twice the value of the involved property). The maximum statutory penalty for structuring is 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalty for structuring conspiracy is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
1:14-cr-228 LJO
Updated May 27, 2016