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Press Release

One Fresno Defendant Sentenced To Federal Prison, Another Enters Guilty Plea For Structuring Financial Transactions Involving Drug Trafficking Proceeds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. B Aseel Al-Saber, 24, of Fresno, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to one year and a day in federal prison for conspiring to structure cash transactions, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. In addition, co-defendant Brandon Thomas, 26, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to structure cash transactions. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 29, 2016, before Judge O’Neill.

According to court documents, Al-Saber and seven co-defendants opened and maintained bank accounts for the purpose of funneling cash proceeds of marijuana trafficking from Florida and other states back to California. Al-Saber’s bank account was used to deposit and withdraw more than $72,000 in cash in amounts of $10,000 or less to prevent Currency Transaction Reports from being filed by the banks on those transactions. The cash funneled through Al-Saber’s bank account was the proceeds marijuana trafficking. In addition, Al-Saber recruited two other individuals to have more than $30,000 in proceeds of marijuana trafficking funneled through their respective bank accounts.

According to his plea agreement, over $700,000 passed through accounts opened and maintained by Thomas in structured transactions.  In total, the government alleges that members of the conspiracy involving Al-Saber and Thomas structured more than $7.5 million in cash that was the proceeds of marijuana trafficking.

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 throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant B. Rabenn is prosecuting the case.

Previously, co-defendant Chad Riffle was sentenced to five years imprisonment and co-defendant Jeremy Murphy was sentenced to fifteen months in prison. In addition, co-defendants Peter Capodieci, Miguel Gonzalez and Bree Benson have pleaded guilty to conspiring to structure financial transactions and are awaiting sentencing. The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to structure is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, 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.

Co-defendant Ashley Starling Thomas is scheduled for trial on May 24, 2016. The charges against Ashley Thomas are only allegations; she is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated April 11, 2016

Identity Theft
Press Release Number: 1:14-cr-228-LJO