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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Director of Guatemalan Bank Arrested on Federal Money Laundering Charge and Money Laundering Charges Unsealed Against Former Guatemalan Presidential Candidate

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Timothy M. Dunham of FBI's Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Special Agent in Charge Adolphus P. Wright of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Miami Field Division, announced today the arrest of Alvaro Estuardo Cobar Bustamante, the director of a national Guatemalan bank, on a charge of money laundering, and the unsealing of a money laundering case against Manuel Antonio Baldizon Mendez, a former candidate for president of Guatemala.

The criminal complaint and indictment charging Cobar Bustamante with money laundering was unsealed today in the Southern District of Florida (Case Nos. 19mj03536, 18cr20706).  According to allegations in the complaint, after multiple cooperating witnesses, who were prosecuted for narcotics trafficking, informed the FBI that Cobar Bustamante was involved in helping the traffickers to launder their drug proceeds, the FBI initiated a sting operation to gather evidence of Cobar Bustamante’s money laundering activity.  In recorded conversations, Cobar Bustamante is alleged to have agreed to accept what was represented to be money earned from drug trafficking and to secretly move that money to the United States by using his position as the director of a national Guatemalan bank.  Tomorrow, Cobar Bustamante is scheduled to have his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres in Miami.

Baldizon Mendez was prosecuted in a separate case that was unsealed today in the Southern District of Florida (Case No. 19cr20706).  According to court documents, including a Stipulated Factual Proffer, as a campaign supporter and later as a presidential candidate, Baldizon Mendez solicited money to fund his political campaigns.  Baldizon Mendez accepted campaign contributions knowing they were being made by narcotics traffickers and were the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.  Thereafter, Baldizon Mendez engaged in financial transactions, including the purchase of property in Miami, to hide the fact that he had knowingly accepted campaign contributions (money) from narcotics traffickers.

Baldizon Mendez previously pled guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to 50 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan stated, “Narcotics trafficking is a very serious crime that not only poisons our communities and the people who use drugs, but can also contaminate some of the highest levels of business and politics.  Purportedly upstanding members of society who help narcotics traffickers wash their money are no better in the eyes of the law than the traffickers themselves.  Money launderers and their conspirators will be treated with the same justice meted out to the traffickers.”

“These prosecutions are another example of the Department of Justice and our foreign partners working together to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises engaged in narcotics trafficking and related corruption," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy M. Dunham.  "We will aggressively pursue and bring justice to the corrupt business and community leaders who help drug traffickers poison the communities with their criminal activity."

“The laundering of illicit funds derived from drug trafficking is a serious crime,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Adolphus P. Wright.  “Those responsible, whether domestic or foreign, will be subject to investigation by law enforcement authorities if they attempt to foster this criminal activity against the United States.  The DEA will continue to work with our local, state, federal, and foreign partners to target and investigate illegal drug related activities which put our communities in harm’s way.”

The prosecution was part of Operation Black Mass, which is a result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking and money laundering enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan thanked the following entities and agencies for their collaboration, investigative work and assistance with these cases: the government of Guatemala, the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section of the U.S.  Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the Office of International Affairs of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, FBI’s Miami Field Office, FBI’s Office in Guatemala, DEA’s Office in Guatemala, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami and San Diego, and Customs and Border Protection in Miami.

The prosecution of these cases is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter M. Norkin.

The charges contained in the complaint against Cobar Bustamante are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov

Updated November 13, 2019