US Indicts 11 In $40 Million Drug Money Laundering Scheme

Published: 23 June 2017

By Vanja Lakic

Federal authorities charged 11 people Wednesday for laundering more than US$40 million worth of drug money to Mexico through metro-Atlanta area money transfer services.

The charges come following a three-year investigation into the use of money-broker businesses to funnel drug deal proceeds from the US back to Mexico.

Money broker businesses allow funds to be wired to individuals in other countries without using traditional bank accounts, making them especially appealing to drug traffickers.

In an effort to stay undetected, the group would split large sums of money into smaller transactions and they used aliases and false addresses, federal officials said.

Homeland Security agents in Atlanta discovered that managers and employees of a number of metro area money remitters and wire transfer businesses facilitated the laundering in exchange for kickbacks.

“The business model of many Mexican cartels requires a means to get their cash profits across the border and into the hands of the supervisors and sellers,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia John Horn said in a statement.

“This investigation shows that they may have found an effective means through unscrupulous money remitters. We hope these cases will help to close this pipeline,” he added.

The nine people in custody are from Georgia. Two Mexican nationals have been indicted but not yet caught.

By laundering millions of dollars in illegal drug proceeds back to Mexico, the criminal network “provided direct support to the drug trafficking organizations plaguing the region with dangerous illicit narcotics and the violence associated with drug trafficking activities,” Atlanta special agent Nick Annan said.

Violence in Mexico predominately related to drug trafficking hit a 20-year high this May underscoring the country’s growing struggle to deal with organized criminal groups.