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South Texas real estate agent arrested on charges of money laundering drug proceeds

McALLEN, Texas – A south Texas real estate agent was arrested Wednesday following the return of a two-count indictment alleging money laundering for a convicted drug trafficker, and making false statements to federal agents.

This arrest was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office’s Narcotics Investigation Division, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Freddy Centeno, of Brownsville, Texas, is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan July 31.

The sealed indictment was returned July 23, and unsealed July 31 upon Centeno’s arrest. The indictment alleges that Centeno, a licensed real estate agent, helped a narcotics trafficker launder drug profits through the purchase of real properties in Brownsville.

If convicted, Centeno faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine.

This arrest resulted from the ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Spike Strip. The narcotics trafficking and money-laundering investigation targeted the Armando Arambul drug trafficking organization which operated under the auspices of the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros, Mexico, and throughout the Southern District of Texas.

Arambul and others transported multi-ton quantities of cocaine to Houston and other major U.S. cities and remitted millions of dollars to the Gulf Cartel. Arambul was convicted and is set for sentencing Oct. 21, at which time he faces up to life in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Salazar, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.