U.S. scores major victory against business linked to cartel money laundering
By Dialogo September 17, 2014
A major operation targeting the Sinaloa Cartel led to nine arrests and the seizure of about USD$100 million by law enforcement authorities in Los Angeles last week.
About 1,000 U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement agents cooperated in the takedown, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The effort, focused in Los Angeles’s downtown fashion district, was called “Operation Fashion Police.”
The operation targeted an alleged money laundering operation by the Sinaloa Cartel, according to a U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) statement. The Sinaloa Cartel is a Mexican transnational criminal organization which is engaged in international drug trafficking, extortion, human trafficking, kidnapping, and other criminal enterprises, according to statements by the FBI and the DOJ.
“These indictments and arrests deal a massive blow to complex trade-based money laundering schemes in general, and will therefore severely impair the ability of drug cartels to realize profits and further entrench themselves in our nation’s socioeconomic fabric,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Associate Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam said.
Law enforcement agents with the FBI, DEA, the Internal Revenue Service and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) carried out the operation, according to the DOJ.
International laundering scheme crosses borders
Operation Fashion Police marks the latest stage in an investigation that began with an earlier drug seizure.
Sinaloa Cartel members kidnapped one of their own dealers after U.S. law enforcement seized 100 kilos of cocaine he was supposed to distribute, according to the FBI. After torturing him in Mexico, the kidnappers demanded ransom from the victim’s family to pay down his drug debt.
That’s how the FBI learned of the alleged money laundering scheme. The cartel instructed family members to send ransom in payments of USD$100,000 and USD$40,000 to QT Maternity, a business in Los Angeles.
QT Fashion allegedly transferred the money to María Ferré S.A. de C.V., a Mexico-based business that collects illicit proceeds for criminal groups, according to a U.S. court indictment filed by federal prosecutors.
The scheme used the Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE), which illegally turns U.S. dollars into Mexico pesos through the sale of legal products, the DOJ alleged in a statement. Drug cartels use drug trafficking money to buy legal goods that are sold in Mexico. The money is returned to the cartels, which use such schemes to avoid moving large amounts of cash from the U.S. to Mexico.
Federal law enforcement authorities arrested California residents Andrew Jong Hack Park, 56, of La Cañada Flintridge; Sang Jun Park, 36, of La Crescenta; and José Isabel Gómez Arreola, 49, of downtown Los Angeles for allegedly participating in the money laundering scheme.
Federal U.S. law enforcement authorities have issued arrest warrants for three natives of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa - Luis Ignacio Orozco Muñoz, 50, Armando Arturo Chávez Gamboa, 43, and Daisy Corrales Estrada, 30. They allegedly engaged in the money laundering scheme on behalf of María Ferré.
U.S. federal prosecutors have charged each of the six suspects with conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. If they are convicted on all charges, each would face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
“[The] arrests and searches should send a message to international drug cartels that the FBI and our partners won’t tolerate the exploitation of American businesses for the purposes of illicit financial transactions that fund hostage-taking and the distribution of narcotics,” said Bill L. Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Division.
U.S. federal law enforcement authorities arrested two men, Xilin Chen, 55 and his son, Chuang Feng Chen, 24 in connection with their activities while running their businesses, Yili Underwear and Gayima Underwear. The Chens allegedly accepted money from an undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker, according to a DOJ statement. Federal prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Xilin’s 28-year-old daughter, Aixia, who also allegedly participated in the drug trafficking scheme.
Four other suspects allegedly laundered drug money through the Pacific Eurotex Corp., according to a DOJ statement. The DOJ identified them as CEO Morad Neman, 54 of Los Angeles; CFO Hersel Neman, 55 of Beverly Hills; and Mehran Khalili, 45, of Beverly Hills and Alma Villalobos, 52, of Arleta, whose roles in the company were not made public. They are charged with conspiracy to launder money and illegally structuring financial transactions.
“These arrests and seizures should serve as a sobering warning to companies that seek to bolster their bottom line by doing business with drug traffickers—you will pay a high price for your complicity,” Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement. “Unscrupulous companies that help cartels cover their financial tracks by laundering their illicit funds are contributing to the devastation wrought by the international drug trade.”
Third ..... comon "persians". . .not Iranians