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Press Release

8 individuals sentenced to prison for laundering $44M in drug proceeds to Mexico through local cell phone store fronts

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The final of eight defendants in a $44 million money-laundering case was sentenced today in U.S. District Court. Sentences imposed range from five years to 18 years in prison.


Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley sentenced Rodrigo Esqueda-Vazquez, 34, today to 180 months in prison.


Defendant Name

Sentence received

Date of Sentencing

Jose Luis Rosales-Ocampo

144 months


Thania Rosales-Guadarrama

84 months


Josue Gama-Perez

72 months


Dulce Rosales-Guadarrama

87 months


Eliezar Mendoza-Nava

216 months


Rodrigo Esqueda-Vazquez

 180 months


Julio Angel Gonzalez

120 months


Rodolfo Franco-Valdez

60 months



Local and federal law enforcement, working in conjunction, spent years investigating large-scale narcotics traffickers in an effort that ultimately brought down the money-laundering ring.


According to court documents, beginning around 2013 and continuing until September 2019, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin, fentanyl and marijuana and commit large-scale money laundering.


The schemes relied on the use of small businesses that held themselves out as cell phone stores. The stores sold few, if any, cell phones, and they conducted little, if any, legitimate business otherwise. Rather, the stores were merely front businesses for drug traffickers to send large amounts of money related to their drug trafficking from Columbus to Mexico.


Jose Luis Rosales-Ocampo, 57, of Columbus, and his family members ran the so-called cell phone stores: Los Rosales on Shady Lane Road, Los Rosales 2 on East Main Street and Express Cellular on Eastland Square Drive.


The storefronts principally served as a place for individuals to wire illicit drug proceeds to Mexico. Thousands of illicit wire transfers were completed per year. Drug dealers from multiple narcotics-trafficking cells would drop large amounts of narcotics money at the stores, after which the store owners would falsify money sender names, addresses and phone numbers on the wire transfers to Mexico in order to conceal the nature of the proceeds. 


In total, the joint state–federal efforts led to the prosecution of eight defendants federally and 35 defendants by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation and prosecution of these defendants removed approximately 34 kilograms of heroin, 516 grams of cocaine, 76 grams of fentanyl and 250 pounds of marijuana from Central Ohio streets. Additionally, investigators seized $458,500 in U.S. currency and a home valued at nearly $248,000 as part of the investigation and prosecution of these cases.


Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Detroit Division; Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack; Acting Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods and officials with the Ohio HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Commission announced the sentences.


Assistant United States Attorneys S. Courter Shimeall and Jessica W. Knight represented the United States in this case. Daniel J. Stanley, formerly with the office of Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack, also represented the United States in this case as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.


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Updated April 9, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud