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Document and Benefit Fraud
05/23/2008

ICE agents dismantle money laundering organization

Ten arrested for laundering more than $9 million in three years

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested here today 10 members of a Colombian-based money laundering organization with cells in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic and responsible for laundering more than $9 million in a period of three years. The announcement was made by Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico and Roberto Escobar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico.

On May 16, 2008 a federal grand jury indicted 16 individuals on separate related indictments for violations to Title 18, United States Code (USC), Section 2, Title 18 USC, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and (h) and Title 18, USC Section 982 (money laundering). Today, ICE and other federal and local law enforcement agents arrested 10 defendants.

On March 19, 2008, another related indictment alleges that four defendants, Guillermo González-Santillan, 27, Elvis Gonzalez-Santillan, 26, Cesar Sanchez-Ortiz, 33, and Julio Martinez-De La Cruz, 20, are members of a Colombian-based money laundering organization with cells in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. They were accused by a federal grand jury for violations to Title 18, USC, Section 2, Title 18 USC, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and (h) and Title 18, USC Section 982, (Conspiracy to commit money laundering, aiding and abetting, and forfeiture allegations for $2.5 millions).

According to the indictment the defendants conspired to launder monetary instruments by conducting financial transactions which affected interstate and foreign commerce to wit the delivery of United States currency, knowing the currency represented the proceeds of drug unlawful activity and knowing that the transactions were designed, in whole or in part, to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of drug trafficking activity.

It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants and their co-conspirators would coordinate the delivery and deliver large amounts of illegal drug proceeds collected from the illegal sale of narcotic drugs to various contact in Puerto Rico, so that such proceeds could be deposited in accounts established in United States banks.

On May 16, 2008, the following defendants were accused by a Grand Jury on 16 separate indictments for violations to Title 18, United States Code (USC), Section 2, Title 18 USC, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and Title 18, USC Section 982.

  • Eugenio Marte Madrid - laundered $297,290
  • Noel Rivera-Candelario - laundered $206,162
  • Grendy Almonte-Almonte - laundered $499,960
  • Arquimides De Jesus-Batista - laundered $124,964
  • Daniel Duran Berroa - laundered $177,030
  • Eduardo Esteras Rosado - laundered $1,199,965
  • Juan Carlos Fontanez Rodriguez - laundered $297,290
  • Luis Rafael Garcia Castro - laundered $240,029
  • Francisco Garcia Velez - laundered $99,968
  • Felix Henandez Hilario - laundered $992,286
  • Robin Jimenez Rodriguez - laundered $627,054
  • Carmen Rios Lebron - laundered $189,276
  • Paul Rosario Almanzar - $181,960
  • Isaias Marcelino Diaz-laundered $398,700
  • Yorama Cabrera - laundered $399,187
  • Maximo Antonio Flores - laundered $200,015

According to the indictments, the defendants aiding and abetting others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, did knowingly and willfully, conduct and attempt to conduct a financial transaction affecting interstate and foreign commerce, to wit the delivery of millions in U.S. currency, which involved the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity, that is drug trafficking in violation of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, Title 21, USC, Section 801, knowing that the transaction

The defendants used a complex system known as the Black Market Peso Exchange to launder their illicit drug proceeds, the indictment alleges. The Black Market Peso Exchange is a decades-old money laundering infrastructure that is estimated to handle billions worth of illicit dollars annually. It is among the primary means by which Colombian drug cartels convert their U.S.-based drug dollars into "clean" pesos that they can use in Colombia.

"Today's dismantling of this international criminal money laundering organization is clear proof that to attack the distribution of illegal drugs, we go after not only the drugs, but also the dirty money that the sale of drugs generates," said Roberto Escobar, acting special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations in Puerto Rico. "We will simply continue using all our resources to protect the financial infrastructure of our country."

"These individuals, in three years, laundered approximately $9 million dollars. Thanks to the efforts of the federal and local law enforcement agencies, we will prosecute these individuals who assist drug traffickers in the financial end of their business. Without these financial transactions the drug traffickers are unable to enjoy the profits of their illegal activities," said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.

As of today, ICE has seized more than $2 million in cash in U.S. currency and 61 bank accounts with more than $1 million.

The indictment charges money laundering forfeiture allegations in the amount of $9 millions. Penalties for the offenses alleged in the indictments up to 20 years to life in prison and fines up to $250, 000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maritza González-Rivera and is part of the High Intensity Financial Crimes Area (HIFCA) initiative.