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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 16, 2019

Mexican Lawyer Sentenced to 96 Months for Laundering Millions of Dollars of Narcotics Proceeds for Sinaloa Cartel

Assistant U. S. Attorney Larry Casper (619) 546-6734    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – September 16, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Gibran Rodriguez-Mejia, a lawyer from Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced in federal court today by U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez to eight years in custody for laundering millions of dollars of drug proceeds for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Rodriguez, who has a Mexican law degree with a specialization in business and civil law, pleaded guilty in April, admitting that he operated a currency exchange house that received the proceeds of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa Cartel.  Rodriguez, who was extradited from Mexico to San Diego in September 2018, is the fourth Mexico-based defendant in this case to be sentenced.    

In his plea agreement, Rodriguez admitted to laundering $3.5 million in drug proceeds. He coordinated with couriers, primarily located in Southern California, who smuggled the bulk U.S. currency from the United States to Mexico.  Rodriguez also admitted that he arranged for currency to be smuggled to an exchange house in Tijuana, Mexico that was owned and operated by co-defendant Cesar Hernandez-Martinez, who has also pleaded guily and is set to be sentenced on December 2, 2019.  After the money was converted to Mexican pesos, Rodriguez provided financial accounts in Mexico into which the money was deposited for the benefit of the Mexican-based drug traffickers.

According to court records, in one instance in April 2014, Rodriguez and an individual referred to as “Doc” arranged for a southbound money courier to pick up $100,000 dollars from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and transport that sum to Mexico. “Doc” provided the courier’s identity to Rodriguez, who arranged the purchase of a plane ticket for the courier to travel to Philadelphia to make the pick up. When the courier landed, law enforcement conducted surveillance and then seized the $100,000 in cash on the courier’s person and in his hotel room.

“Those who launder proceeds for the world’s most violent drug trafficking organizations will continue to be targeted and brought to justice no matter where they may be located,”  said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.  “We will continue to combat efforts to further the flow of dangerous narcotics across the border into and through Southern California by every means at our disposal.”

In addition to the six defendants in U.S. custody in this case, approximately 20 other individuals have entered guilty pleas and have been sentenced previously in related cases.  Those cases have involved individuals based in the United States or who frequently crossed into the United States and served as money couriers, drug couriers and drug stash house operators and who were part of, or related to, the same money laundering and drug trafficking organization.

Three other defendants have previously entered guilty pleas in this case and been sentenced (Omar Ayon-Diaz; Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga; and Joel Acedo-Ojeda) and two others (Cesar Hernandez-Martinez and Oscar Rodriguez-Guevara) have entered guilty pleas.  Hernandez-Martinez entered his plea on April 4, 2019 and will be sentenced on October 21, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Benitez and Rodriguez-Guevara entered his plea on August 22, 2019 and will be sentenced on December 2, 2019 at 9:00 a.m., also before Judge Benitez.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted this case with the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

DEFENDANT                                   Case Number 15-cr-950                                                                   

Gibran Rodriguez-Mejia                     Age:    31                    Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico     

SUMMARY OF CHARGE

Hernandez-Martinez

Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) and (h).

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

Prior Guilty Pleas and Sentences

Joel Acedo-Ojeda: Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) and (h); sentenced to 135 months custody and $20,000 fine.

Omar Ayon-Diaz: Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) and (h); sentenced to 120 months custody and $15,000 fine.

Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga: Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to import cocaine, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952, 960 and 963; sentenced to 132 months custody and $1,000 fine.

Cesar Hernandez-Martinez: Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) and (h); will be sentenced on October 21, 2019.

Oscar Rodriguez-Guevara: Pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) and (h); will be sentenced on December 2, 2019.

INVESTIGATING AGENCY

Homeland Security Investigations

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
CAS19-0916-Mejia
Updated September 16, 2019