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Justice News

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mexican National Sentenced to 135 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Launder $20 Million in Drug Trafficking Proceeds

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

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 12, 2016

SAN DIEGO –A Culiacan, Mexico, man was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for conspiring to launder $20 million worth of drug trafficking proceeds.

Joel Acedo-Ojeda, 32, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez, who also ordered Acedo-Ojeda to forfeit $20 million and to pay a fine of $20,000.  Acedo-Ojeda pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering on June 23, 2015.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, between approximately April 2013 and April 2015, Acedo-Ojeda and his co-conspirators coordinated the smuggling of $20 million in bulk U.S. currency, which he knew to be the proceeds of drug trafficking, from the United States to Mexico.  Upon arrival in Mexico, the bulk currency was transferred to the drug smugglers who were supplying the narcotics either directly or by being smuggled back into the United States, placed into the financial system and then wired back into Mexico.

At sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Casper told the court that Acedo-Ojeda is believed to have laundered funds for Sinaloa Cartel drug traffickers.  The Sinaloa Cartel is one of the most notorious drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico and imports and distributes hundreds of tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States each year.  Casper also noted that the investigation of this matter resulted in the seizure by U.S. law enforcement of more than $5 million dollars in United States currency as well as several hundred pounds each of cocaine and methamphetamine.                     

“Those who launder drug monies to further the flow of narcotics that have a devastating impact on our communities and citizens should pay a stiff price” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.  “We will continue to aggressively pursue those individuals, wherever they may be located, who attempt to employ any means, financial or otherwise, in aid of efforts to move narcotics through our Southwestern border.”

“HSI is committed to stopping the flow of illicit drug proceeds across our borders that fill the coffers of the world’s most violent drug trafficking organizations,” said Michael Carney, acting special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego. “Today’s sentencing highlights the commitment of HSI and our agents to bring these international money launderers to justice.”         

HSI investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Casper of the Southern District of California and Senior Trial Counsel Mark Irish of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 15cr0950-BEN                                             

Joel Acedo-Ojeda                                           Age: 32           Culiacan, Mexico


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

Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison; $500,000 fine or twice the value of the funds involved in the offense.


Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
Updated December 12, 2016