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Financial Crimes

Feds arrest international money laundering suspects in Alaska and Florida

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal authorities announced the arrest of six suspects Tuesday, five from Alaska and one from Florida, on charges of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and structuring financial transactions related to a cocaine distribution operation.

Claritza Natera, 44, Joel Paredes Henriquez, 32, Nerido Paredes Henriquez, 38, Alberto Acosta, 32, and Carlita Acosta, 34, all of Anchorage; and Concepcion Egea, 56, of Orlando, Fla., were arrested Tuesday by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations (CI).

According to the indictment, for nearly two years beginning in 2010, the defendants conspired with unindicted co-conspirators, Randin Paredes Henriquez and Joel Santana-Pierna, to transfer large sums of money from Alaska to the Dominican Republic. Prosecutors say the defendants wired more than $175,000 in proceeds from a larger cocaine distribution conspiracy operated by Santana-Pierna. Additionally, in December 2011, Natera and others transported in excess of $55,000 in cash on board an airplane from Alaska to Philadelphia in an attempt to then carry the funds to the Dominican Republic.

The indictment also alleges the defendants purposely made multiple bank deposits that were under $10,000 to evade federal financial transaction reporting requirements. These deposits were often made within hours or even minutes of one another. Under federal law, a currency transaction report must be filed with the IRS by a financial institution for any currency transaction of more than $10,000, and it is illegal to structure transactions in order to avoid this filing requirement.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, and each individual structuring charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison as well as a fine. An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is composed of special agents and officers from HSI, DEA, IRS-CI, FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Anchorage Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Alaska District.