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Contraband
05/05/2009

First federal government prosecution using Patriot Act to charge U.S. citizens of bulk cash smuggling crimes discovered abroad and committed in the U.S.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- This morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents arrested two United States citizens who collectively smuggled bulk cash in excess of $400,000 to the Dominican Republic and who are the first to be charged in the United States for committing bulk cash crimes identified abroad and committed in the United States. Today's arrests were announced by Rosa E. Rodriguez-Velez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico and Roberto Escobar-Vargas, acting Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) of the ICE Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico.

Francisco Javier Molina-Garcia, 20, and Hector Samuel Rodriguez-Padron, 21, both United States citizens, left San Juan on April 11, 2007, aboard a ferry headed to the Dominican Republic concealing bulk cash in boxes of detergent.

The concealed monies were discovered and seized by Dominican Republic (DR) customs authorities. The San Juan ICE Office of Investigations and the ICE Attaché Office in the Dominican Republic closely coordinated with DR customs authorities and agreed that the prosecution of the case would be handled in the United States.

This indictment represents the first federal government prosecution using the Patriot Act to charge U.S. citizens for crimes identified abroad and committed in the United States.

It is alleged that Molina-Garcia failed to declare $296,123 upon departing the United States and upon arriving in the Dominican Republic; while Rodriguez-Padron failed to declare $129,998.

Both were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 24, 2009, and face bulk cash smuggling charges in violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5332. If convicted, each could face a maximum of five years in prison. 

"This prosecution is the result of the collaboration between federal law enforcement agencies and authorities in the Dominican Republic. We will continue working with law enforcement agencies in the Dominican Republic to address the illegal contraband of currency and monetary instruments," said U.S. Attorney Rodriguez-Velez.

"Criminals who think that they can escape the reach of the law are mistaken," said acting SAC Escobar-Vargas. "These unprecedented indictments speak to the level of cooperation between our international law enforcement partners in fighting crime. We commend the government of the Dominican Republic for their discovery and continued support."

Both defendants are presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.