Grand jury indicts Butler County man for romance-fraud conspiracy involving more than $1 million in proceeds, separate COVID-relief fraud
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A ninth federal defendant pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to money laundering and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. The defendant orchestrated teams of drug dealers in central Ohio and laundered the proceeds to Mexico.
In the fall of 2020 and spring 2021, eight original, federal defendants were sentenced to prison for the same conspiracy, in which they laundered $44 million in drug proceeds to Mexico through local cell phone store fronts. The stores sold few, if any, cell phones, and they conducted little, if any, legitimate business otherwise. The defendants received sentences ranging from five to 18 years in prison.
In his guilty plea today, Cruz Alberto Perez-Nunez, 36, admitted to being a drug trafficker and regular “customer” of the cell phone store fronts who laundered his drug proceeds from Columbus to Nayarit, Mexico.
Perez-Nunez oversaw the narcotics-distribution operation of multiple teams of drug dealers in the Southern District of Ohio. In 2018, he oversaw the supply chain of heroin and directed and controlled drug-trafficking and money-laundering activities of individuals in and around Columbus. Perez-Nunez also set up living arrangements for the teams of drug traffickers.
Perez-Nunez and others coordinated with the owners of Los Rosales on Shady Lane Road, Los Rosales 2 on East Main Street and Express Cellular on Eastland Square Drive to send bulk money transfers to lists of names in 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 to conceal the nature of the proceeds.
In total, the joint state–federal efforts led to the prosecution of nine 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.
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Cincinnati Field Office; Orville O. Greene, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Detroit Division; Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack; Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant and officials with the Ohio HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Commission announced the guilty plea entered today before Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.
Assistant United States Attorneys S. Courter Shimeall and Jessica W. Knight are representing 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.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, and gangs that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
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