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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bank Employee Charged with Fraud; Accused of Laundering Money for Fentanyl Traffickers

Assistant U. S. Attorney Blanca Quintero (619) 546-7118    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Leopoldo Aguilera, a former Wells Fargo personal banker, appeared in federal court today in connection with charges that he used his position to launder millions of dollars for Mexico-based drug traffickers.

Aguilera was arrested by FBI agents on May 2, 2019, on charges of bank fraud for his participation in an international money laundering organization based in Tijuana, Mexico, and which operated primarily in San Diego.

At today’s hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt allowed the defendant to be released on a $40,000 bond secured by two financially responsible adults. The judge also ordered that the defendant be subject to home detention and GPS monitoring.

According to the complaint, Aguilera abused his position of trust as a personal banker with Wells Fargo Bank and aided the money laundering organization by wire transferring millions of dollars to Mexico.  The FBI’s investigation linked these funds to the sale of narcotics, specifically the sale of multi-kilogram amounts of fentanyl in the Midwest. 

According to the complaint, with the knowledge of the money laundering organization’s structure, scheme, and objectives, Aguilera performed a litany of financial transactions for the criminal organization. For instance, he opened 26 bank accounts at Wells Fargo Bank and executed 229 international wire transfers totaling $7.4 million. 

Of the 26 bank accounts that Aguilera opened for the organization, 11 of them were created by Aguilera with fictitious identities. Specifically, Aguilera used his position as a personal banker with Wells Fargo Bank to knowingly enter false names, passport numbers, and dates of birth on the 11 fictitious bank accounts.  These fictitious bank accounts alone were used by the criminal organization to wire transfer a total of $3.1 million to Mexico, the vast majority of those wire transfers conducted by Aguilera himself.   

As part of the investigation, the FBI identified and seized 17 bank accounts that belonged to the organization and which contained at least $160,000 at the time of the seizure of the funds.

The investigation found that Aguilera had received approximately $4,000 in cash payments from the criminal organization in exchange for his participation in the scheme. 

The case was investigated by the FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. The investigation was assisted by the participation of Wells Fargo Bank’s internal investigators in Arizona and California. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blanca Quintero.

DEFENDANT                                                                       Case Number: 19-MJ-1801-JLB

Leopoldo Aguilera                                                      Age: 57                       Tijuana, Mexico

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Bank Fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344)

Maximum Penalties: Thirty years in prison, $1 million fine

AGENCIES

Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
CAS19-0509-Aguilera
Updated May 9, 2019