Wells Fargo Personal Banker Sentenced for Money Laundering and Bank Fraud
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California
SAN DIEGO – Leopoldo Lora-Aguilera, a former Wells Fargo personal banker, was sentenced in federal court today to 33 months in custody for money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud.
Aguilera was arrested by FBI agents for his participation in an international money laundering organization based in Tijuana, Mexico which operated primarily in San Diego. The criminal organization laundered funds in excess of $12.5 million dollars before being disrupted by the FBI.
According to the plea agreement and other public records, Aguilera abused his position of trust as a personal banker with Wells Fargo Bank by opening bank accounts with false identities and wire transferring millions of dollars to Mexico. Aguilera conducted these transactions in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash payments from the criminal organization. The FBl's investigation linked these funds to the sale of narcotics by a Mexican drug cartel, specifically the sale of multi-kilogram amounts of fentanyl in the Midwest.
Aguilera admitted to opening 26 bank accounts for the money laundering organization, including eleven that were created by Aguilera using 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 fictitious bank accounts. These 11 fictitious accounts alone were used by the criminal organization to wire transfer a total of $3.8 million to Mexico. A majority of those wire transfers were conducted by Aguilera himself. Aguilera's use of these fictitious accounts was identified by Wells Fargo and brought to the attention of the FBI. Agents arrested Aguilar and disrupted the scheme shortly after.
In conjunction with Aguilera's arrest, the FBI identified and seized 17 bank accounts that belonged to the money laundering organization containing in excess of $230,000. Further investigation by the FBI resulted in a second round of arrests of Aguilera’s co-conspirators in the Spring of 2022. To date, the FBI has arrested Melisa Valdivia Diaz, Alma Leticia Murillo Valdivia, and Jorge Alberto Ortiz Borrego for participating in the multi-million-dollar money laundering scheme. All three defendants have pleaded guilty in a related case, admitting they participated in the conspiracy. Sentencings are pending.
“Money launderers are a lifeblood of the cartels,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today’s sentencing underscores that money launderers are key players in the cartel structure and will be treated as such.”
Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force for their excellent work on this case.
“This case highlights the FBI’s dedication to holding all individuals accountable who make space for the cartels to function in our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office. “Although Lara-Aguilera was convicted on the financial aspect of these crimes, his actions directly facilitated the trafficking of fentanyl and other dangerous narcotics throughout our country. The FBI is committed to investigating all who manipulate U.S. financial systems to enable money laundering and drug trafficking.”
This case is the result of efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force, who were assisted by 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-CR-1955-BAS
Leopoldo Lora-Aguilera Age: 58 Chula Vista, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Money Laundering Conspiracy – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 1956(h) and 1957
Maximum penalties: Twenty years in prison and $500,000 fine
Bank Fraud – Title 18 U.S.C., Section 1344
Maximum Penalties: Thirty years in prison and $1 million fine
FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force
Assistant U. S. Attorney Blanca Quintero (619) 546-7118
Updated March 2, 2023