19 charged with international drug money laundering fraud


BOSTON (AP) — 19 people have been charged with a complicated money laundering scheme to move millions of dollars of drug proceeds from a Colombian cartel through US banks, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The charges brought before a federal court in Massachusetts are the result of a five-year investigation into a Colombia-based money laundering organization. Authorities said they laundered at least $6 million through the US banking system.

Two people were arrested in Jamaica and three were arrested in Florida on Tuesday, authorities said. Last month, one person was arrested in Florida and 12 people were arrested in Colombia. Prosecutors are looking to extradite the Colombian and Jamaican defendants to the United States, officials said. One person remains large.

“This case shows that the long sleeves of the law don’t end at our borders,” said Jolene Simpson, a special agent for the IRS criminal investigation in Boston.

Massachusetts Attorney Rachael Rollins told reporters that the people charged played a variety of roles in the conspiracy, including drug suppliers and dollar buyers.

The plan involved the use of so-called “peso brokers,” who agreed to give pesos to drug traffickers in exchange for profits from US drug sales, Rollins said. A criminal colleague was handed drug money in a suitcase or bag on the street, and then a peso broker deposited the money in a US bank, Rollins said.

To make it appear to be a legitimate business activity, the money was deposited into bank accounts held by front companies and individuals, or other bank accounts through several micro-deposits, officials said.

Rollins confiscated nearly 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds) of cocaine, valued at over $90 million.

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