Torrance Airplane Broker Pleads Guilty to Laundering Drugs Proceeds through Acquisition of Multiple Airplanes for Drug Traffickers
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California
Assistant U. S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson (619) 961-0287
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 21, 2017
SAN DIEGO – Torrance airplane broker Hector Hernandez pleaded guilty in federal court today to money laundering charges, admitting that he helped hide the true origin of drug money through the purchase of airplanes for drug traffickers.
Hernandez, 48, entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello to conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions. Sentencing is set for June 5, 2017 at 9 a.m. before Judge Anello.
Hernandez was the owner of Pacific Coast Aero at Zamparini Field, at Torrance Airport. In his plea agreement, he admitted that he facilitated the purchase of airplanes and airplane parts for exportation and deregistration to Mexico on behalf of third parties. Hernandez admitted that he arranged for delivery of substantial bulk cash to codefendant Vicente Contreras-Amezquita
According to an indictment, codefendant Contreras-Amezquita used 46 bank accounts at multiple U.S. financial institutions and made structured cash deposits in excess of $3 million dollars for the purchase of over 35 airplanes. As part of the scheme, Hernandez admitted that he facilitated the purchase of seven airplanes.
As part of his guilty plea, Hernandez admitted that knew that bulk cash was derived in part from unlawful proceeds that constituted a felony and were criminally derived. Hernandez believed that the proceeds or bulk cash were in part from drug trafficking activities and that the planes would be used for drug trafficking activities in Mexico, even though Hernandez was not personally involved in drug trafficking activities.
According to the indictment, codefendant 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.
Codefendant Vicente Contreras-Amezquita’s hearing was continued to March 16, 2017. His trial date is on April 25, 2017.
DEFENDANT Case Number 15CR1144-MMA
Hector Hernandez Age 48 Wilmington, California
GUILTY PLEA TO TWO CONSPIRACY CHARGES
Conspiracy to Launder Money by avoiding transaction reporting requirements and concealing nature, location, source, ownership and control of drugs proceeds); Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(h), 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii); 20 years maximum, 3 years of supervised release; $100 special assessment; $500,000 fine
Conspiracy to Engage in Monetary Transactions); Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(h) & 1957; 10 years maximum, 3 years of supervised release; $100 special assessment; $500,000 fine
Internal Revenue Service –Criminal Investigations
Drug Enforcement Administration
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Updated February 22, 2017