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75 Indicted For Trafficking Fentanyl And Laundering Cash For A Mexican Cartel

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Federal authorities recently charged 75 people for money laundering and narcotics trafficking, including fentanyl, linked to the notorious Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed 40 indictments Thursday in San Diego federal court, detailing how a network of individuals conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug cash, largely for the Sinaloa Cartel, between 2015 and 2018. Another 35 people were charged over the course of the DOJ’s multi-year investigation into the organization’s criminal activity, reports WTXL.

Jose Roberto Lopez-Albarran, who served as a “money broker” for an international laundering organization based in Mexico, allegedly oversaw the massive operation, funneling proceeds from regional drug dealers throughout the U.S. back into Mexico using various “money movers.”

The conspirators used a network of “funnel” bank accounts to allow money movers to deposit bulk quantities of cash into domestic bank accounts. The funds would then be wire-transferred to bank accounts linked to fake businesses in Mexico controlled by the cartel. Bulk amounts of cash were also smuggled in vehicle compartments, duffel bags and shoeboxes.

Undercover agents with the FBI and the local drug task force infiltrated the money laundering organization and gained the trust of its leaders, who eventually let the agents act as money movers. The agents picked up bulk shipments of cash in regions throughout the U.S. over the course of a two-year investigation.

Over the course of the multi-year investigation authorities confiscated $6 million in drug money, 209 pounds of methamphetamine, 138 pounds of heroin, 22 pounds of fentanyl, 202 pounds of cocaine, 555 pounds of marijuana and 20 firearms.

“We have siphoned the cash and the life out of a San Diego-based international money laundering organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement from the DOJ. “By following the money, we have discovered large quantities of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine that are no longer destined for the streets of America. That’s a one-two punch that takes these organizations completely out of the ring and makes our communities safer.”

Authorities charged 12 drug traffickers earlier in March, including an auxiliary police officer, in Ohio for allegedly distributing narcotics and laundering money for the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Former Seven Mile Police Department Auxiliary Officer Christopher Watkins, 23, is accused in the indictment of acting as a drug mule on at least one occasion: traveling to Ontario, Calif., to pick up a narcotics shipment in exchange for $1,000 in cash. Authorities allege Watkins used his experience to help the operation avoid law enforcement.

Large quantities of narcotics continue to infiltrate the U.S. due to the relentless efforts of drug traffickers taking advantage of America’s deteriorating opioid epidemic.

President Trump Vows To Win The War Against Opioid Addiction:

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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