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Financial Crimes

16 indicted in money laundering scheme

MIAMI - Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led investigation, 16 individuals were indicted on charges of conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds using the Venezuelan Black Market. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $7 million.

The following individuals are charged in the indictment: Herman Rafael Solorzano Caguaripano, 58; and his son, Herman Alejandro Solorzano Rincon, 32; Georges Toutounji, 50; Fortunato Farache, 55; Douglas Enrique Sanchez Soto, 60; Edgar Hadad Azraca, 48; and Alba Villalobos Vergel, 61, all from Doral, Fla.; Alfredo Ramon Soto Diaz, 42; Miguel Jose Perez Rivero, 32; Luis Enrique Homez Garcia, 36; and Henry Eduardo Bilbao Movilla, 61, all from Miami, Fla.; Rafael Polanco, 38, of Hollywood, Fla.; Antoine Jean Melhem, 51, of Coral Gables, Fla.; Johan Alberto Rincon Medina, 58, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Nercido Sosa Medina, 58, from New York; and Luis Rafael Diaz Plaza, 41, from Puerto Rico.

ICE special agents arrested most of the defendants on Wednesday; they are scheduled to appear in U.S. District court on April 2 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard.

ICE Special Agent in Charge Anthony V. Mangione said, "ICE has taken a leading role to focus our efforts on targeting the individuals and criminal organizations involved in the flow of large quantities of illicit money across the U.S. border. The black market bolivar exchange is an example of the sophisticated and complex systems used by drug trafficking organizations to launder narcotics proceeds. ICE's financial investigations are designed to target, disrupt and dismantle these payment systems which threaten the financial infrastructure of the United States."

In September 2008, ICE special agents assigned to the Miami Special Agent in Charge Financial Investigations Group initiated an investigation into financial transactions involving the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.

According to the indictment and previously filed complaint, the defendants received contracts to pick up narcotics proceeds in Puerto Rico and New York, and then smuggled the money to south Florida. Once the currency was picked up in Puerto Rico and New York, it was secured in hotel room safes and in locked bags kept in the hotel room. Members of the conspiracy then secretly transported the currency, usually in $100,000 increments, via commercial air to south Florida. The money was divided into smaller amounts to avoid the possible seizure of all the currency if detected by law enforcement. Once in Miami, the money was either deposited in various bank accounts in the names of nominees, or delivered to individuals in south Florida.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman for the Southern District of Florida stated, "Drug traffickers need to launder their money to continue and expand their drug operations. Recently, we saw how traffickers exploited weaknesses in our banking system to launder billions of potential drug proceeds. Today, we see another example of traffickers using South Florida to launder millions in drug proceeds. We will continue to use our expertise in financial cases to follow the money, with the goal of depriving drug traffickers of their illicit gains."

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami with the assistance of ICE's Office of Investigations in San Juan and New York, the Office of the ICE Attaché Caribbean, the Miami Dade Police Department, the Broward County Money Laundering Task Force, the Florida City Police Department, City of Indian Creek Police Department, the Doral Police Department, the Broward Sheriff's Office, and the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department Forensic Imaging Bureau.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Gonzalez, Southern District of Florida, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is only an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.