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Press Release

Two Mexican Nationals Plead Guilty in Sinaloa Cartel-Related Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Probe

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

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

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – December 15, 2016

SAN DIEGO – Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga of Tijuana pleaded guilty in federal court today to managing and supervising a $20 million drug trafficking conspiracy in which multi-kilo quantities of cocaine were smuggled from Mexico to the United States.

Contreras-Arriaga, a 28-year-old Mexican National who was extradited from Colombia to the United States in June 2016, admitted that he arranged for drug smugglers to bring cocaine into the United States and ensured that smugglers were paid for transporting the cocaine. According to his plea agreement, he also arranged for U.S. bulk currency pickups from drug dealers so that these drug proceeds could be smuggled from the United States to Mexico.

As part of his plea agreement, Contreras-Arriaga agreed to an enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which will result in him receiving an elevated Guidelines sentencing range.  Contreras-Arriaga admitted that, during the period charged, he was responsible for smuggling more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) but less than 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of cocaine into the United States.

Contreras-Arriaga also admitted to working with co-defendant Omar Ayon-Diaz, 38, also a Mexican National, who owned and operated currency exchange houses in Tijuana and who was also extradited from Colombia in August 2016. On December 6, 2016, Ayon-Diaz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering and admitted that he and his exchange houses knowingly received $24.5 million in smuggled proceeds from the sale of narcotics trafficking in the United States.

Joel Acedo-Ojeda, a money-laundering co-defendant, was also sentenced this week to 135 months in custody. At that sentencing, the prosecutor told the court that funds were believed to have been laundered for Sinaloa Cartel drug traffickers.

Contreras-Arriaga pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major and Ayon Diaz pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal.  Both Contreras-Arriaga and Ayon-Diaz will be sentenced on March 6, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez.

Contreras-Arriaga faces up to life in prison, a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison, and a $10 million fine.  Ayon-Diaz faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $49 million (twice the value of the funds involved), and a forfeiture judgment of $24,500,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is working this matter together with the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 15cr0950-BEN                                 

Osvaldo Contreras-Arraiga                             Age: 28                       Tijuana, Mexico


Conspiracy to import cocaine, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952, 960 and 963.

Maximum Penalties: Life in prison and 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, and $10 million fine.


Omar Ayon-Diaz                                            Age: 38                       Tijuana, 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.


Homeland Security Investigations


Updated December 15, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS16-12-15-Contreras