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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Colombian money launderers sentenced

ATLANTA - Fernando Vidal-Gonzalez and Jhon Jimenez-Guzman, a former professional soccer player who played with Colombian Team America, have been sentenced for their roles in an international money laundering organization responsible for collecting over $1 million from drug trafficking in the United States.  The defendants laundered the funds by filtering them through a network of bank accounts destined for Colombia. Vidal-Gonzalez and Jimenez-Guzman operated out of Cali, Colombia, and were extradited to face charges in the United States following the dismantling of their organization.   

“International money launderers function as the financiers of criminal organizations, enabling the victimization of our communities while hiding behind a shield of anonymity built through a maze of bank accounts and business transactions,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We will continue bring those who operate sophisticated money laundering networks to justice, even if they are operating in other countries.”

“Transnational criminal organizations who commit crimes against the United States face accountability for their actions regardless of where they may be physically located,” said Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Nick S. Annan. “This case shows HSI is committed to using its unique cross-border authority to hold accountable persons who commit serious crimes, and it reflects the excellent partnership between HSI, the Colombian government, and our federal partners.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: In Cali, Colombia, Vidal-Gonzalez worked with Jimenez-Guzman, as part of a money laundering organization that functioned as a type of “Black Market Peso Exchange” (BMPE). A BMPE is a complex money laundering scheme in which drug proceeds or other illegal profits are layered into the financial system through numerous structured cash deposits with subsequent transfers into bank accounts held by various individuals and businesses (which may be legitimate or shell entities). The funds are also sometimes used to pay for exported goods. The end result is that the illegal funds are transferred to another country – in this case Colombia – in a manner that disguises the true source and owners of the funds, while evading currency exchange and income reporting requirements, taxes, and fees.      

While the defendants were in Cali, Colombia, they directed an individual in the United States to open multiple bank accounts. Vidal-Gonzalez and Jimenez-Guzman then arranged for couriers to hand off large bags of cash from drug sales (as much as $108,040 at a time) to the individual at locations such as a park, a gas station, or a nightclub. The individual was told to deposit the money into bank accounts in small increments, and then transfer the funds out by numerous wires to other accounts and businesses located throughout the United States, Mexico, Colombia, and China.  The ultimate goal was to transfer the funds back to Colombia. Law enforcement identified over $889,000 that Vidal-Gonzalez and Jimenez-Guzman laundered in this manner between May 2011 and August 2012. 

Fernando Vidal-Gonzalez, 56, of Cali, Colombia, was sentenced on October 15, 2018, to eight years, one month in prison, with credit for 10 months served prior to extradition from Colombia, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Vidal-Gonzalez was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering after entering a guilty plea on July 6, 2018.

Jhon Jimenez-Guzman, 46, of Cali, Colombia, was sentenced on September 27, 2018, to six years, six months in prison, with credit for 10 months served prior to extradition from Colombia, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Jimenez-Guzman was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering after entering a guilty plea on June 19, 2018.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in partnership with the Colombian National Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth M. Hathaway, Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section; Lisa W. Tarvin, Deputy Chief of the General Crimes Section; and Garrett L. Bradford prosecuted the case.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs assisted in securing the extradition of the defendants to the United States.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.gov.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Foreign Corruption
Updated October 16, 2018