On Oct. 14 and Nov. 17, under separate indictments, a federal grand jury charged the defendants with conducting financial transactions affecting interstate and foreign commerce by delivering moneys which involved the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity, that is drug trafficking in violation of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, knowing that the transaction was designed in whole and in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, the source, the ownership, and the control of the proceeds of such specified unlawful activity, and the laundering of monetary instruments. If convicted, the defendants face a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison.
According to the ICE HSI investigation, the defendants allegedly attempted to launder approximately $8 million of which $4 million were seized by ICE HSI special agents. The investigation also revealed that the defendants utilized a money laundering scheme called the Black Market Peso Exchange to launder the illegal proceeds of drug trafficking organizations through electronic transfers to China, Hong Kong, Colombia, Sweden, Panama, Spain, United Arab Emirates and the United States.
"In recent years ICE has encountered an increasing number of major financial crimes, frequently resulting from the needs of drug trafficking organizations to launder large sums of criminal proceeds through legitimate financial institutions and investment vehicles," said Roberto Escobar-Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations in San Juan. "We are committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners in our efforts to detect and close down weaknesses within our financial, trade and transportation sectors that can be exploited by criminal networks."