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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Alleged Money Launderers for Mexican Cartels Indicted

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Blanca Quintero (619) 546-7118 and Vivian Sapthavee (619) 546-7696

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – November 16, 2021

SAN DIEGO – An indictment was partially unsealed yesterday in federal court charging 29 alleged members of an international money laundering organization that is tied to the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel in Mexico.

During the past week, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have arrested
21 defendants throughout San Diego, Calexico, and Bakersfield, California, who were allegedly involved in a sophisticated international money laundering scheme.

According to the indictment and other public records, this Imperial Valley-based money laundering organization (MLO) laundered in excess of $32 million in drug proceeds from the United States to Mexico.  The money laundering organization secured contracts with drug trafficking organizations in Mexico to pick up drug proceeds in cities throughout the United States, including Baltimore; Detroit; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Boston; Denver; Chicago; New York City and numerous others.

Once the MLO received a contract, it communicated with couriers and bank account holders using burner phones and code phrases to coordinate bulk cash deposits into fictitious funnel business bank accounts, the indictment said.  The defendants allegedly served as either couriers and/or funnel bank account holders.  The couriers travelled from San Diego to cities throughout the country to receive the bulk cash after using photographs and codes to verify the meeting details.  The bulk cash was typically concealed in trash bags, duffel bags, or shoeboxes.  After the illicit cash proceeds were deposited into the fictitious funnel bank accounts, the monies were wired to personal bank accounts in Mexico where the money was then dispersed to the drug trafficking organizations.  

“Today we have dealt a serious blow to this Imperial Valley-based international money laundering network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “By dismantling this network, the Department of Justice reaffirms its unwavering commitment to bringing to justice those who corrupt our financial systems by laundering their illicit proceeds.” Grossman commended the prosecution team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division, for their excellent work on this case.

“This complex financial investigation is a perfect example of the unrelenting focus shown by HSI and its partners in the Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force to stop criminal organizations attempting to launder illicit narco dollars,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “The key to dismantling Drug Trafficking Organizations is disrupting the flow of illicit funds and attacking the money laundering element of the organizations. HSI will continue to work with its fellow law enforcement partners to protect U.S. financial infrastructure and use our comprehensive investigative authorities to stop criminal organizations engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Grossman also praised federal, state, and local law enforcement for the coordinated team effort in the culmination of this investigation.  Agents and officers from the United States Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and state and local law enforcement from the Imperial Valley area also provided vital assistance for the investigation. Additionally, this investigation was conducted with support from the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture (TEOAF) Third-Party Money Laundering (3PML) program and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. This case was led by the HSI Costa Pacifico Money Laundering Task Force (CPTF), the DEA, and the IRS - Criminal Investigation. The CPTF is a cooperative partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies focusing on domestic and transnational criminal organizations seeking to cleanse and conceal narcotics proceeds via bulk cash smuggling or through national and international financial systems.

An indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 21cr2546-GPC                           

Ricardo VALENZUELA-Gale                          Age: 25           Mexicali, Mexico

David DURAN-Rivera                                   Age: 35           BOP Custody

Gerardo SILVAS                                           Age: 33           Mexicali, Mexico (BOP Custody)

Jose Luis VARGAS-Espinosa                        Age: 30           BOP Custody

Robert ANZALDO                                        Age: 28           Mexicali, Mexico

Diana Brenda RODRIGUEZ-Sandez              Age: 23           Mexicali, Mexico

Christian FERNANDEZ                                 Age: 29           Mexicali, Mexico

Julia Vianney SUAZO-Quirino                      Age: 23           Mexicali, Mexico

Adrian Rosett VELASQUEZ                           Age: 23           Mexicali, Mexico

Shantal MACIEL                                           Age: 34           Mexicali, Mexico

Cesar Enrique CANTU                                  Age: 29           Unknown

Nessie Aizu                                                 Age: 28           Mexicali, Mexico

Alejandro CABRERA-Herrera                        Age: 21           Unknown

Adriana Elizabeth VALENZUELA-Gale           Age: 28           Mexicali, Mexico

Axel GUADALUPE                                         Age: 20           Unknown

Fidel Alejandro ZAMARANO-Bernal              Age: 33           Unknown

Derian SERVIN-Diaz                                     Age: 25           Unknown

Erik D. GALAVIZ                                           Age: 30           Mexicali, Mexico

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: Twenty years in prison, $500,000 fine or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved.

AGENCIES

Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration, Narcotics Task Force

Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations

San Diego Sheriff’s Department

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
CAS21-1116-Valenzuela
Updated November 16, 2021