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Financial Crimes
10/28/2013

9 members of Gulf Cartel money laundering cell arrested, 1 fugitive remains

Defendants laundered proceeds from illegal drug sales destined for Mexico

9 members of Gulf Cartel money laundering cell arrested, 1 fugitive remains.
9 members of Gulf Cartel money laundering cell arrested, 1 fugitive remains.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — South Texas law enforcement officials arrested nine individuals Monday alleging they violated U.S. laws by moving money undetected through the United States banking system from Florida to Texas and then into Mexico.

These arrested were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. Monday’s arrests resulted from a yearlong investigation by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Financial Crimes Group with the assistance of U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and the Brownsville Police Department.

Following are those Texas residents who were arrested: Oscar J. Aguilar, 37, Yurixi Guadalupe Vega-Martinez, 29, Bea Marie Fairbanks, 24, Mayte Ayde Diaz, 39, Lorena M. Moreno-Martinez, 39, Teodosa Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 32, and Yezenia V. Campos-Silva, 31, all of Brownsville; and Yamileth Sinai Carballo, 20, and Miguel Jonathan Pereira, 21, both of Bayview. They are expected to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan Tuesday.

Jose M. Rivera, 26, of Brownsville, is also charged but not yet in custody. He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423).

The 21-count indictment was returned under seal Oct. 22 and was unsealed after the arrests Monday.

"Those individuals arrested in this operation are members of a money laundering organization that allegedly orchestrated moving millions of dollars in illicit proceeds to circumvent law enforcement and reap their illegal profits abroad," said Janice Ayala, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "HSI is dedicated to dismantling suspected transnational criminal organizations, seizing their assets and severing their financial life line."

According to court documents, the alleged money laundering cell opened bank accounts at Bank of America in Brownsville, and then sent their account numbers to unknown individuals in Florida, according to the allegations. There, the unknown individuals allegedly deposited cash in amounts under the $10,000 reporting requirement for cash transactions. The indictment alleges that on the same day, the defendants in Brownsville then withdrew the cash in amounts under the $10,000 reporting requirement. They allegedly kept a portion of the cash as their payment, and then gave the bulk of the money to another individual for it to be walked across the border at ports of entry in Brownsville. The scheme allegedly occurred from about November 2008 through December 2012.

The indictment indicates the money was proceeds of illegal narcotics sales belonging Mexican drug trafficking organizations, including the Gulf Cartel.

All are charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, which carries a maximum five-year term of imprisonment and $250,000 fine on each count. All are also charged with varying counts of structuring withdrawals at a financial institution, which also carries the same five years and $250,000 fine on each charge, upon conviction. However, if is determined the financial scheme involved more than $100,000, then the maximum punishment increases to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Aguilar, Diaz and Moreno-Martinez are also charge with conspiracy to commit international money laundering and they face an additional 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine, upon conviction.

The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture against the defendants for $1,893,170, which represents the alleged proceeds from the criminal activity.

Monday’s arrests resulted from a yearlong investigation by the following agencies: HSI, Financial Crimes Group with the assistance of U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and the Brownsville Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Betancourt, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.