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El Paso used-car dealer sentenced to 27 months in prison for illegally structuring more than 50 cash deposits to local banks

ICE, IRS investigation revealed businessman structured more than $740,000 in cash deposits

EL PASO, Texas - A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced the owner of a local used-car dealership to more than two years in federal prison for illegally structuring bank cash deposits totaling more than $740,000 to avoid reporting them to the government. This case was jointly investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Internal Revenue Service.

Jose Martinez, 44, owner of Martinez Autos on 5630 Alameda Ave., is named in a 19-count indictment that charged him with illegally structuring bank deposits and failing to file currency transaction reports. ICE special agents arrested him in November 2007; and he later pleaded guilty to one count each of structuring and failure to file currency transaction reports. On June 17, U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez sentenced him to 27 months for each offense. Jose Martinez, a U.S. permanent resident, will serve the time concurrently.

The investigation showed that Jose Martinez owned Martinez Autos since March 2003, and beginning about January 2004, he opened bank accounts in various names associated with the business. Since then he made more than 50 cash deposits in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $9,500. The structured deposits totaled $740,585.

By law, individuals are required to complete a currency transaction report, and submit it to the financial institution when they make cash deposits of $10,000 or more. Financial institutions are then required to verify and record the name and address of the person making the transaction, as well as the identity, account number and social security or taxpayer identification number.

"Individuals who structure frequent cash deposits, or break them up in amounts slightly under $10,000, often do so to avoid the reporting requirement, which is a federal offense," said Roberto G. Medina, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "Structuring cash deposits is often an attempt to hide illegal income or proceeds from illicit activity."

It is a federal crime to knowingly structure transactions with financial institutions, or attempt to conduct one or more cash transactions in any amount at one or more financial institution in one or more days, for the purpose of evading currency transaction report requirements.

Martinez pleaded guilty to causing or attempting to cause a financial institution to fail to file a currency transaction report, which financial institutions have a legal duty to do.

Judge Martinez ordered the forfeiture of 26 vehicles, and up to $107,769.41, proceeds derived from the illegal activity. In addition, Judge Martinez ordered a monetary judgment against the defendant in the amount of $792,250.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandy Gardes, Western District of Texas, prosecuted the case.