You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 23, 2015

Airplane Broker Charged with 200 Counts of Laundering $3.6 Million for Drug Traffickers via Purchase of More than 35 Airplanes

SAN DIEGO – A Mexican airplane broker, his wife and others are charged in a 200-count grand jury indictment with laundering the funds of drug traffickers through the sale of 35 Cessna airplanes intended for use in illicit smuggling.

Vincente Contreras-Amezquita, who lived in San Diego during the time period in question, was arrested last week and appeared in court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal. The judge scheduled a detention hearing for July 30, 2015 at 2:30 p.m.

According to the indictment, Contreras-Amezquita and others facilitated the acquisition and purchase of the Cessnas and airplane parts, including auxiliary fuel tanks, heavy duty tires and landing gear for landing on clandestine airfields. Cessna 206s and 210s are types of airplanes preferred by drug-trafficking organizations operating in Mexico because of their reliability, speed and ability to carry heavy payloads over long distances.

The indictment alleged that Contreras-Amezquita and others used 46 different U.S. bank accounts to deposit $3.6 million in cash deposits during a five-year period and initiated inter-fund transfers for the purchase of airplanes and airplane parts.

The indictment further alleged that in order to conceal his crimes, Contreras-Amezquita  collected the unlawful drug proceeds in random locations, like strip malls, parking lots, aircraft hangars and fast-food restaurants.

In order to hide the source of the illicit cash, and to evade the currency reporting requirements, Conreras-Amezquita instructed his money laundering crew to arrange for structured cash deposits under $10,000 into multiple bank accounts at different U.S. financial institutions to avoid reporting requirements.

As part of the money laundering scheme, defendant Contreras-Amezquita and his money laundering crew opened new accounts using different names, different forms of identification, and different addresses.  Often times, the money laundering crew would conduct multiple deposits on the same and consecutive days, into multiple bank accounts at multiple branch offices of these financial institutions. On occasion, defendants would travel to multiple branches of the financial institutions located within the same geographic location.  They would also travel to multiple states, including Connecticut, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and California, to conduct these financial transactions.

Immediately following the structured deposits, defendants Vincente Contreras-Amezquita and his crew engaged in convoluted financial transactions by initiating and authorizing various fund transfers between these multiple bank accounts. Defendants would engage in fund transfers into designated bank accounts because these designated bank accounts would be used to initiate payment for the airplanes or airplane parts.

Contreras-Amezquita faces up to 20 years in custody.

 

DEFENDANT                                  Case Number 15CR1144MMA

Vicente Contreras-Amezquita                     Age 44                  Tijuana

CHARGES    

CONSPIRACY CHARGES

 

Count 1

Conspiracy To Launder Money

  • Avoid a transaction reporting requirement
  • To Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership, and Control of Proceeds

 

18/1956(h)

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

Count 2

Conspiracy to Engage in Monetary Transactions

18/1956(h)

18/1957

 

Count 3

Conspiracy to Violate Structure Currency Deposits

 

31/5324(a)(3)

 SUBSTANTIVE COUNTS

 

CESSNA #1 – N761KT

 

Counts

4-17

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

18-22

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

23-24

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

25

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

CESSNA #2 – N6474C

 

Counts

26-45

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

46-51

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

52-53

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

54

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

CESSNA #3 – N6364Y

 

Counts

55-65

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Count

66

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

67-68

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

69

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

 

CESSNA #4 – N4960C

 

Counts

70-84

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

85-86

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

87-88

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

89

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

 

CESSNA #5 – N6195Y

 

Counts

90-105

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

106

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

107-109

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

110

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

CESSNA #6 – N345HI

 

Counts

111-120

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

121-122

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Counts

123-124

Aiding and Abetting/ Engage in Monetary Transactions  (payments from accounts only)

18/1957

18/2

 

Count

125

Aiding and Abetting/Structuring

 

31/5324(a)(3)

18/2

 

 

 

CESSNA #7 – N7615Q

 

Counts

126-136

Aiding and Abetting/ML - Avoid a transaction reporting requirement  (deposits only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(ii)

18/2

Counts

137-139

Aiding and Abetting/ML – Conceal & Disguise Nature, Location, Source, Ownership & Control of Proceeds

(inter fund transfers only)

 

18/1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

18/2

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
CAS15-0723-Contreras
Updated August 5, 2015