Federal prosecutors have indicted 75 people nationwide in a massive drugs and money operation in what interim U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman has called San Diego’s biggest money laundering investigation ever in.
Massive Money Laundering Operation Crackdown
According to Braverman, the defendants laundered drug proceeds from the Sinaloa cartel for years. Allegedly, the network has laundered tens of millions of dollars in drug profits over the past three years.
Investigators seized $6 million in cash, as well as hundreds of pounds of drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
The alleged leader of the operation, 32-year-old Jose Roberto Lopez-Albarran, was arrested and taken into custody in San Diego on Feb. 9.
Lopez oversaw a large network of people dubbed “money movers” who were responsible for shuttling large amounts of money across the country via vehicles, cash-stuffed duffel bags, luggage, and even shoe boxes. The proceeds from drug sales were then eventually transferred to Mexico.
Another co-defendant, 62-year-old Manuel Reynoso Garcia, has been accused and charged with money laundering conspiracy and other charges.
An additional 21 people who were named as being a part of the operation are also in custody, officials said. The remaining 19 people are under indictment but have not been taken into custody.
The investigation into the money laundering scheme involved undercover work by investigators from the District Attorney’s office, sheriff and Chula Vista police to infiltrate the organization. These departments identified both the money movers and, as a result of that investigation, a network of drug trafficking cells across the country.
Money laundering is a crime that involves moving illicit money into legitimate channels in order to disguise the money’s illegal source and avoid tax officials. Some forms of criminal activity, such as drug smuggling, yield large amounts of cash, leaving the criminals with the problem of what to do with the vast amounts of money they earn. One solution is to take this “dirty” money and channel the funds through bank accounts of legitimate businesses. Other money laundering activities include transactions such as bank deposits, withdrawals, fund transfers, wire transfers, payments, and other financial activities. Sophisticated use of current technology creates paper trails in money laundering cases that may not only be more complex; they may also be more difficult to uncover because many financial transactions are completed entirely using anonymous means like bitcoins. Embezzlement and fraud may also be associated with money laundering.
California Money Laundering Laws: Penal Code Section 186.10 PC
Money laundering is a serious federal crime that involves taking money that has been unlawfully obtained and working to integrate it so it may appear to come from a lawful source. A defendant may face money laundering charges brought under federal laws or California state laws. Those charged with money laundering also may face racketeering/RICO charges if they are involved in organized crime.
Penal Code Section 186.10 PC contains the following elements:
1. The defendant completed a transaction or a series of transactions through a financial institution.
2. The total amount of the transaction(s) must be more than $5,000 in a seven day period OR more than $25,000 in a 30 day period
3. The transaction(s) was made with the intent to promote criminal activity or the defendant knew that the funds involved were from the proceeds of criminal activity.
Money Laundering under Penal Code 186.10 PC is a “wobbler,” which means that a prosecutor can file either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the factual circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.
Misappropriation of Funds
As is often the case in many crimes, misappropriation of funds requires that prosecutors must prove to a jury certain number of points or elements of the crime. Misappropriation of funds has four:
1. Control but not ownership. The prosecutor must show that the owner of the property entrusted or gave the money to the defendant, or otherwise allowed the defendant control over it. In short, the defendant rightfully had possession, but not ownership.
2. Intent. First, a person must knowingly misappropriate the money, and cannot commit the crime by making a mistake or error. It can be enough for a prosecutor to show that the accused intended to take any action that results (or would likely result) in the misappropriation of funds.
3. Conversion. In order to commit misappropriation of funds, a person must not only take the money but must use it for his own purposes. Even transfer of money to a bank account or the refusal or failure to hand over the owner’s money when the owner demands it is considered misappropriation.
4. Return. A person who misappropriates funds with the intent to later return the money to the rightful owner is still guilty of misappropriation. It also doesn’t matter if the misappropriation only lasted for a short amount of time.
Working with a Defense Attorney
The criminal defense lawyers at Daniel Perlman Law in Los Angeles will put our experience to work for you. We believe every defendant has the right to a zealous defense. We offer free initial consultations and will usually quote a flat fee that will cover all the services necessary for your case, including trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, call 877-887-4541 or contact us by e-mail.