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Press Release

El Paso Businessowner Admits Role in Money Laundering Scheme Associated with Black Market Peso Exchange

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

On the 4th day of his federal trial in El Paso, 52-year-old Jose Luis Rodriguez, owner of ERENE, Inc. (ERENE) pleaded guilty to orchestrating an estimated $100 million trade-based money laundering scheme announced United States Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr., Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge William Cotter, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez.

ERENE, formerly doing business as “J&E Sports” among other names, is an El Paso-based business which primarily sells shoes and other goods to U.S. and Mexican-based customers.

Yesterday afternoon, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  By pleading guilty, Rodriguez admitted that he and others conspired to launder the proceeds of a scheme to illegally smuggle millions of dollars worth of goods into Mexico without paying the tariffs, duties, and fees imposed by the Mexican government.  From March 6, 2006 to November 2014, these goods were ultimately smuggled using “pasadores” or black market smugglers and were done so without following the U.S. laws and regulations applicable to the export of goods from the United States.   Evidence presented during trial also revealed that between 2012 and 2014, more than an estimated $2.3 million in bribes were paid to Mexican customs officials to facilitate the scheme.

Rodriguez, who faces up to 20 years in federal prison, is expected to be sentenced in approximately 60 to 90 days. Two co-defendants--40–year-old ERENE Assistant Manager Jorge Penuelas, and 53-year-old ERENE employee Manuel Rodriguez—entered guilty pleas to the conspiracy charge prior to jury selection.  They each face up to 20 years imprisonment when they are scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2015.

This investigation was conducted by the HSI’s Financial Operations & Currency Unified Strikeforce (FOCUS).  FOCUS is comprised of investigators from HSI, IRS – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Customs and Border Protection – Office of Field Operations (CBP-OFO) and the El Paso Police Department. The Government of Mexico Servicio de Administracion Tributaria (SAT) also assisted in this investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph Blackwell and John Gibson.

Updated August 28, 2015

Financial Fraud