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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 22, 2019

Former Paraguayan Congresswoman And Two Others Charged In International Money Laundering Conspiracy

TRENTON, N.J. – A former member of Paraguay’s Congress, her husband and another senior member of a Paraguayan money exchange business are charged by complaint for their participation in an international money laundering conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Cynthia Elizabeth Tarrago Diaz, 40; Raimundo Va, 44; and Rodrigo Alvarenga Paredes, 33, are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Tarrago and Va were arrested by the FBI on Thursday after they arrived in Newark as part of their unlawful money laundering activities. They appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman in Trenton federal court and were detained. Alvarenga remains at large in Paraguay.

“As alleged in the complaint, Tarrago, while a former member of Paraguay’s legislature, brazenly offered to launder the proceeds of international drug trafficking, and even went so far as to offer to traffic in cocaine herself,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “When we stop this kind of money laundering activity, we help to stop the underlying drug trafficking activity that motivates and depends upon it. By eliminating the means by which international drug trafficking organizations launder their ill-gotten gains, we help to keep New Jersey safer by limiting the flow of drugs into our communities from outside the United States.”

“Money laundering is illegal no matter your position in society,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie. “The FBI follows the evidence and makes arrests based on the actions of those individuals. We will find and bring to justice anyone who uses unlawful means to enrich themselves with no regard for the law.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Tarrago is a former member of Paraguay’s Congress, and recently announced her intention to run for mayor of the capital district of Asunción. Tarrago and Va, her husband, agreed to accept at least $2 million in United States currency from two individuals who represented themselves to be narcotics traffickers. Believing the money to be proceeds of unlawful narcotics trafficking, they laundered the funds through an international network of accounts to disguise the unlawful source of the proceeds.

Tarrago and Va traveled to New Jersey and Florida on multiple occasions and accepted approximately $800,000 in United States currency from the purported drug traffickers, caused those funds to be laundered through the conspiracy’s network of accounts, and ultimately transferred the money back to an account maintained by the purported drug traffickers. Members of the conspiracy generated fraudulent invoices that stated legitimate business reasons for the transfers of laundered funds to the purported drug traffickers’ account. On multiple occasions during the purported drug dealers’ meetings with Tarrago and Va, Tarrago offered to assist them with procuring large quantities of cocaine from Paraguay at an inexpensive price.

Unbeknownst to Tarrago and Va, the currency they accepted from the purported drug traffickers and caused to be laundered was not actually illicit drug proceeds. The funds were provided by two undercover FBI agents as part of an extensive undercover investigation of the money laundering network. During the investigation, the undercover agents met with Tarrago and Va in the United States on numerous occasions, and obtained video and audio recordings of their interactions with Tarrago and Va, which include details of the money laundering network. The evidence uncovered during the investigation revealed that Alvarenga, a high-ranking member of a large money-exchange company in Paraguay, coordinated the laundering of the funds that the undercover agents provided to Tarrago and Va.

The money laundering conspiracy count carries a statutory maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the conspiracy.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Trenton Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. He also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance in the case.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Joseph Gribko and J. Brendan Day of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
19-379
Updated November 22, 2019