Skip to main content
Press Release

Woman who laundered more than $1 million in drug proceeds for Mexican cartel sentenced to 3+ years in prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Defendant and coconspirators traveled the U.S. collecting and depositing drug proceeds in “funnel” bank accounts that went to drug trafficking organizations

Seattle – A 36- year-old resident of Mexico was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 44 months in prison for her role in laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds for drug traffickers, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. In March 2023, Sonia L. Mezquita Vega pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and a dozen counts of specific substantive counts of money laundering. At today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez acknowledged that Mezquita Vega was not making the millions she was depositing, however, “The only reason the drug business survives is the money that comes with it,” Judge Martinez said.

“Drug dealing is a business that traffics in pain, sorrow, and heartbreak for the families who watch their loved one succumb to addiction,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “Those who transmit the illegal drug proceeds to the drug cartels are a critical cog keeping the poisons of fentanyl, meth, heroin, and cocaine flowing to our communities. Such conduct deserves a significant sanction.”

Mezquita Vega was one of seventeen defendants indicted in August 2020 for a money laundering scheme that sent as much as $2.6 million to a drug trafficking organization in Mexico. Mezquita Vega has been in custody since she was arrested in the Tucson, Arizona area on February 3, 2022.

According to records filed in the case, Mezquita Vega initially worked as a “funnel account holder,” someone who opened a bank account where drug proceeds could be deposited and later transferred to or withdrawn by the drug traffickers. Later, Mezquita Vega became a “money mule,” traveling the country and picking up drug proceeds to deposit into her funnel account or others. Finally, Mezquita Vega supervised others in the money laundering scheme, traveling with them to collect drug proceeds and directing how the funds should be deposited.

During seven months in 2014, $352,030 was deposited in the funnel account opened by Mezquita Vega. At the same time, an additional $236,540 was funneled through an account apparently opened by Mezquita Vega’s mother. Between October 2014 and April 2016, Mezquita Vega became a money mule/depositor and was responsible for depositing $830,906 in drug proceeds.

In asking for the five-year sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi wrote to the court, “Drug dealing is a business. If people could not make money – often lots of money – they would not sell drugs. Money is the vitally necessary fuel for the drug epidemic. And money laundering, of the type perpetrated by (this organization), is the pipeline that fuel flows through.”

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at .

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vincent T. Lombardi.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated July 7, 2023

Drug Trafficking