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Financial Crimes

Santa Fe businessman pleads guilty to currency structuring charges

Used car lot owner agrees to forfeit more than $500,000, 10 vehicles

David's Auto Mart
David's Auto Mart

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A Santa Fe used-car business owner pleaded guilty Aug. 12 to federal currency-structuring offenses under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents investigated this case.

Rivera owns David's Auto Mart, a used-car business with two locations in Santa Fe. At sentencing, Rivera faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Rivera forfeited the $520,171.62 seized by the United States from various bank accounts controlled by Rivera at Wells Fargo Bank, Guadalupe Credit Union and Los Alamos National Bank. Rivera also forfeited titles to 10 vehicles, including a 2002 Land Rover, a 1999 Mercedes-Benz SUV, a 2002 Lincoln LS and a 2001 Mercedes-Benz C240.

Rivera pleaded guilty to structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements. Federal law requires all financial institutions to file currency transaction reports (CTR) for transactions that exceed $10,000. To evade having the bank file a CTR, individuals may try to illegally structure their currency transactions so that no single transaction exceeds $10,000 to hide their criminal activity.

Structuring involves repeatedly depositing or withdrawing amounts less than the $10,000 limit, or splitting cash transactions into smaller amounts to avoid the reporting requirements. Currency structuring, even with deposited funds that are legitimately derived, still violates federal laws.

In entering his plea, Rivera admitted to structuring an aggregate of $168,780 into his business and personal checking accounts at Wells Fargo Bank on 10 days between Feb. 2, 2009 and May 10, 2010 to evade the CTR reporting requirement.

"Individuals and businesses, which break up their cash deposits to avoid currency-reporting requirements create a vulnerability that may allow criminals to spend illicit cash proceeds and avoid detection by law enforcement," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in El Paso. "HSI will continue to target individuals who engage in this type of criminal activity."

ICE HSI special agents arrested Rivera Dec. 16, 2010. He was released under pretrial supervision, and is still free pending his sentencing hearing, which has not been set.

The Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division assisted with the investigation.