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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 6, 2022

Four Colombians sentenced for $1.4 million international drug money laundering scheme

ATLANTA - Gilberto Lopez-Giraldo, Raul Lopez-Giraldo, Guillermo Escobar, and Alexander Duque-Casanova have been sentenced for engaging in a more than $1.4 million drug money laundering conspiracy involving major cities from across the United States to Cali, Colombia.

“Illegal drug proceeds provide the critical lifeblood for drug traffickers,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Our office is committed to disrupting the ability of international drug cartels to profit from their illegal activities by seeking to evade law enforcement detection through money laundering operations conducted within the United States.”

“These criminals thought their scheme would go undetected and they could profit from their criminal activities, but they were wrong,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI, along with our Federal and international partners, is committed to dismantling these organizations no matter where they attempt to operate, and targeting their illicit proceeds is just one of our many tools.”

“This is a victory in the ongoing war against drugs trafficking,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey.  “Concealed income will eventually come to light.  Coordination with other agencies and leveraging each of our strengths is the key in the fight against drugs trafficking and money laundering.  Thanks to the financial expertise and diligence of our agents, these criminals are now off the street and being held accountable for their actions.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: Gilberto and Raul Lopez-Giraldo, Escobar, and Duque-Casanova were members of a money laundering crew based in Cali, Colombia, who conspired to coordinate the collection of money from drug traffickers in cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Chicago, and New York. The group laundered the money through a network of bank accounts in the United States and elsewhere.

The money from these accounts was used to purchase electronics and other goods in the United States then resold on the black market in Colombia. The purpose of this scheme was to secretly convert the drug money collected in the United States into Colombian pesos for drug trafficking organizations.

During the investigation, the defendants and their co-conspirators orchestrated the collection of illicit drug proceeds totaling approximately $1,496,817.

For example, during an undercover operation on November 21, 2012, investigators received $149,980 in U.S. currency from two conspirators who arrived in a truck in the parking lot of a store in Duluth, Georgia. The money was wrapped in bundles and hidden in a box inside a garbage bag. Agents conducting surveillance of the meeting followed the truck from the parking lot to a residence in Norcross, Georgia, that was later determined to be a methamphetamine conversion lab. Republic of Colombia authorities lawfully intercepted telephone conversations between the defendants and other conspirators related to the $149,980 in drug proceeds.

The defendants were later indicted on five counts of money laundering in the Northern District of Georgia, and, with cooperation of Colombian officials, arrested and extradited to the United States. On March 7, 2022, the defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and received the following sentences:

  • Gilberto Lopez-Giraldo, 51, of Cali, Colombia, has been sentenced to five years, ten months in prison.
  • Raul Lopez-Giraldo, 40, of Cali, Colombia, has been sentenced to five years in prison.
  • Guillermo Escobar, a/k/a Memo, 54, of Cali, Colombia, has been sentenced to six years, six months in prison.
  • Alexander Duque-Casanova, 48, of Cali, Colombia, has been sentenced to three years, ten months in prison.

The Court adjusted the sentence of each defendant downward by 12 months from these terms of incarceration to account for the length of time the defendants spent in custody in Colombia while awaiting extradition to the United States. One co-defendant, Harby Mayor-Mejia, remains at large outside the United States.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation agents in Atlanta, Chicago, and Colombia.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas N. Joy, Laurel Boatright Milam, and Tyler A. Mann prosecuted the case.

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
Financial Fraud
Updated October 6, 2022