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September 30, 2021Nogales, AZ, United StatesFinancial Crimes

HSI Phoenix probe results in 30-month sentence for Mexican national for money laundering

TUCSON, Ariz. – A Mexican national was sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison for money laundering, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Francisco Alberto Sanchez-Romero, 27, of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, pleaded guilty April 21 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. HSI Nogales special agents arrested him March 13, 2020.

“Another defendant in this case thought he could go undetected in participating in illicit financial schemes,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix. “He too was wrong. As this sentence makes clear, HSI is committed to investigating financial crime that can cause irreputable damage to the health of our economy. HSI, along with our partners, will work tirelessly to hold those accountable for their crimes.”

Between February 2017, and September 2018, Sanchez-Romero conspired and acted with others to open bank accounts at a Rio Rico, Arizona, financial institution, based on false pretenses to launder drug proceeds through funnel accounts to Mexico. Co-conspirators recruited Mexican citizens with border crossing privileges to open accounts at the bank which would actually be controlled by the money laundering organization with the purpose of accepting large amounts of cash and transferring that money to Mexican bank accounts.

On more than 60 occasions, Sancho-Romero crossed into the United States from Mexico, where he met with the previously recruited funnel-account owners, to transport them to the bank. There, Sanchez-Romero helped the account owners complete consumer account applications and engage in deposits and wire transfers within those accounts. He understood that the monies to be deposited into the accounts were the proceeds of drug trafficking and knew the transactions were designed, at least in part, to conceal or disguise the nature of the proceeds. Sancho-Romero exited the conspiracy on or about Sept. 15, 2018, by which time a total of $7,970,354.75 had moved through the accounts he helped establish.

Mary Sue Feldmeier, Wallace H. Kleindienst, and Robert A. Fellrath, United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.

HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.