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October 19, 2014New York, NY, United StatesFinancial Crimes

HSI investigation leads to sentencing of international money broker

NEW YORK — The primary broker for a Colombian based international money laundering organization was sentenced to 92 months in prison Friday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. This sentencing stems from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Luis Anibal Salazar Garcia, 51, received 92 months while 10 co-defendants were sentenced last month to sentences ranging from 28 to 64 months imprisonment. Two other co-defendants await sentencing. All 13 defendants, who were extradited from Colombia, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder narcotics proceeds. Together, the defendants were responsible for laundering tens of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from the United States to Colombia between 2006 and 2013 on behalf of Colombian drug cartels.

"The incarceration of this defendant and his cohorts disrupts a money laundering organization that contributed to the flow of millions of dollars in illicit drug proceeds," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "The prosecution of these money launderers is a testament to the expertise of the members of the El Dorado Task Force and our international law enforcement partners, whose investigative prowess enables them to find international criminals and bring them to justice."

"Salazar Garcia and his cohorts in crime operated a sophisticated network of shipments and transfers that went to the heart of the deadly narcotics trade – the money. The defendants' money laundering activities allowed narcotics traffickers in Colombia to reap enormous profits from sending drugs to the United States," said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "These sentences will send a message to narcotics traffickers that we are committed to shutting down their ability to profit from selling their illegal drugs in the United States."

Salazar Garcia and his 12 co-defendants were money brokers operating out of the El Diamante, Gran Centro Commercial, San Andresito and Atlantis retail shopping malls in Cali, Colombia, and assisted drug trafficking organizations in Colombia by laundering the proceeds of sales of narcotics in the United States. The defendants also oversaw a network of confederates who operated in the United States taking the proceeds from narcotics sales here and passing the money to others, who ultimately repatriated millions of dollars in drug proceeds to suppliers in Colombia. The drug money was transported in amounts ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, often bundled and heat sealed, and concealed in vehicles, gasoline containers, duffel bags and shoeboxes. Twenty-four of the U.S.- based confederates have also pleaded guilty to their participation in the money laundering conspiracy.

As part of this investigation, law enforcement officers have seized more than $6.5 million in United States currency as well as 52.5 kilograms of heroin, 32 kilograms of cocaine, 63 pounds of marijuana, eight vehicles and three firearms.

The investigation was led by special agents from the HSI New York's El Dorado Task Force, comprised of more than 260 members from more than 55 law enforcement agencies in New York and New Jersey – including special agents, state and local police investigators, intelligence analysts and federal prosecutors – with the assistance from the task force's High Intensity Financial Crimes Area (HIFCA)/Intelligence Unit.

Updated: 03/11/2016