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Press Release

More Than $13 Million Forfeited Against Multiple Individuals in Car Nationalization Business

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

LAREDO, Texas - Seven people have been ordered to forfeit more than $13 million following their convictions related to a car nationalization business, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Car nationalization is the process by which someone imports a U.S. vehicle into Mexico, such as registering the vehicle with the Mexican government. The Mexican government has specific customs laws or regulations regarding vehicle importation. A car nationalization business helps its customers navigate through these regulations for a fee.

Alejandro Cerda, 44, and Juan Carlos Cerda, 39, both of Laredo, had previously pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and making false statements on tax returns. Today, they were collectively ordered to forfeit real property valued at more than $7.4 million and approximately $5.2 million.

Ofelia Jenkins, 67, and Adrian Reyna, 37, both of Laredo, had also pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and were respectively ordered to pay a $45,000 and a $16,000 money judgement. Laredoans Elias Ibanez, 51, Gerardo Cadena, 38, and Roberto Cuevas, 42, had entered their guilty pleas to structuring international monetary transactions were each ordered to pay a $250,000 money judgement.

Juan Cerda and Alejandor Cerda owned and operated a vehicle nationalization company titled Grupo MCA Importaciones LLC. The Cerdas along with Reyna and Jenkins who were unlicensed to operate such a business, engaged in the business of transmitting money when they acquired bulk quantities of currency and other monetary instruments from Grupo MCA and other vehicle nationalization businesses operating in the Laredo area. They then opened specific Texas bank accounts whereby for a fee they transmitted the cash to others. The identified Texas banks accounts are known to have received and transmitted more than $24 million in U.S. currency during a 16-month period. 

Cadena, Ibanez and Cuevas each owned and operated their own Laredo based vehicle nationalization company through which each admitted to structuring U.S. currency into Mexico at increments of less than $10,000 to avoid a known reporting requirements. 

The FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation dubbed Operation Conundrum along with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Graciela R. Lindberg is prosecuting the case. 

Updated May 3, 2018

Financial Fraud