The following examples of narcotics-related financial investigations are written from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the cases were prosecuted. IRS Special Agents participated in the financial investigative aspect of these cases.
Tennessee Market Square Business Owners Sentenced in Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Case
On April 28, 2009, in Knoxville, Tenn., James Michael West and his wife, Joanne Baker West, were sentenced for their roles in a drug and money laundering investigation. James West was sentenced to 105 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment. Joanne Baker West was sentenced to four years probation and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. Co-defendant, Phillip A. Apodaca was sentenced on April 27, 2009, to 144 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment. Another defendant, Christopher James Kortz, was sentenced on April 3, 2009, to 36 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment. All defendants pleaded guilty to money laundering and/or drug charges. According to a July 2006 indictment, from in or about 1995, and continuing up to and including July 11, 2006, James West, aka Mike West, and others intentionally and without authority, agreed with others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute, in excess of 1000 kilograms of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. The indictment further charges that James Michael West and others conducted financial transactions with proceeds from drug trafficking.
Fourteen Defendants Sentenced in South Carolina/Georgia Drug and Money Laundering Case
On April 27, 2009, in Columbia, S.C., it was announced that over the past week, fourteen defendants were sentenced to prison for their roles in an interstate drug smuggling and money laundering enterprise. The drug organization, lead by Juan Mendoza, used several residences to store and sell narcotics, and used vehicles with hidden compartments to transport drugs and money between Columbia and Atlanta. The following defendants were sentenced:
Juan Mendoza, aka Ruben, aka Roberto Landin Uriosti, aka Papa, of Columbia, was sentenced to 30 years in prison;
Carlos Vega, aka Misa, Mendoza's son, was sentenced to 20 years in prison;
Argentina Vega Diaz, Mendoza's wife, was sentenced to 51 months in prison;
Damasio Arreola, aka Damaso, aka Ramazon, was sentenced to 10 years in prison;
Terry Workman was sentenced to 70 months in prison;
Dawud Khalid, aka D, was sentenced to 20 years in prison;
Veronica Martinez, aka Chapara, was sentenced to 60 months in prison;
Celestina Basab, aka Celi, aka Maria Rios, was sentenced to 27 months in prison;
Giovanni Viruel was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison;
Gonzalez March was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison;
Darren Bates was sentenced to 117 months in prison;
Reggie Valentine was sentenced to 10 years in prison;
Mayra Sepulveda was sentenced to 60 months in prison; and
Elsa G. Montecinos was sentenced to 160 months in prison.
In addition to the prison sentences listed above, the defendants were ordered to forfeit $650,000 in cash, cars, firearms, and other assets used in the conspiracy or purchased with drug money. Some of the defendants were in the United States illegally and will be deported following the service of their sentence. The investigation was a joint effort under the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
Idaho Man Sentenced to Nine Years for Drug Trafficking
On April 23, 2009, In Boise, Idaho, Ian Ireland, of Fairfield, Idaho, was sentenced to nine years in prison and ten years of supervised release for conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Ireland was also ordered to forfeit personal and real property in Idaho, California, and Washington, with a value of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a previous plea hearing, Ireland admitted to manufacturing and distributing marijuana and distributing cocaine over a twenty-year period. Money obtained from growing and selling marijuana and distributing cocaine was illegally invested in real estate in Idaho, California, and Washington. Ireland also admitted to using drug proceeds to purchase other assets, including equipment and inventory for his woodworking and pottery businesses in Fairfield, Idaho, through which he commingled drug proceeds with legitimate funds. In addition, Ireland admitted to smuggling and arranging for smuggling of marijuana and cocaine across the Canadian border into the United States.
Man Sentenced to Prison for Money Laundering and Drug Trafficking
On April 20, 2009, in Denver, Colo., Edgar Diaz-Calderon was sentenced to 96 months in prison and 60 months of supervised release for conspiracy to launder money and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. According to court documents, Diaz-Calderon was associated with organized gang activity that involved the distribution of more than 150 kilograms of cocaine in the Metro Denver area between 2005 and 2006. Using trusted runners and couriers, the cocaine was purchased in Mexico and transported to Denver. The cash proceeds of the illegal sales were then returned to Mexico to sustain the importation-distribution business cycle. On October 10, 2008, Diaz-Calderon pled guilty to charges in a superseding indictment of conspiracy to launder money and possession with the intent to distribute.
Pilot Sentenced in Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On April 17, 2009, in Harrisburg, Pa., John Charles Ward, of Carlsbad, California, was sentenced to 125 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to court documents, between May 2005 and 2007, Ward was involved in a large-scale drug trafficking organization that spread across the country from Carlsbad, California; San Diego, California; and the Lancaster/Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. As a pilot, Ward’s role was to transport large amounts of cocaine across from the West Coast to the central Pennsylvania area and drug proceeds from the sale of that cocaine back to the West Coast from central Pennsylvania. Ward flew small aircraft in and out of private airports, including airports in Lancaster, York, and Cumberland Counties. During the course of the investigation, agents documented that Ward, along with a co-defendant, transported in excess 760 kilograms of cocaine and a total of at least $760,000 in drug proceeds was paid to Ward and a co-defendant for their services. Ward is the eighth defendant to have pleaded guilty in the Middle District of Pennsylvania in connection with this drug conspiracy. On April 3, 2009, Tom George Kontos was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment. Kontos, an attorney in California, was charged with obstruction of justice and the forfeiture of 12 properties in California, Illinois and Arizona. Other property that has been forfeited to the government includes Ward’s California residence, his airplane, and the $2.2 million cash that was seized in Lancaster County.
Texas Woman Sentenced for Drug and Money Laundering Crimes
On April 14, 2009, in Mobile, Ala., Aracely Lopez was sentenced to 20 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for her participation in an interstate cocaine distribution and money laundering scheme. Lopez, a resident of Rio Grande City, Texas, was convicted by a trial jury in January 2009 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to launder the drug proceeds, and 19 specific transactions of money laundering. The trial evidence showed that Lopez, and her co-defendant Ramon Garza, both living in south Texas, supplied more than 300 kilograms to Alvin and Benjamin Knox in Mobile, Alabama for distribution here and in other areas of Alabama. In turn, the proceeds were delivered to Texas, where the drug money was laundered through various front businesses. The judge ordered Lopez to pay $2,000 in special assessments and imposed a forfeiture judgment of $6,000,000.
Northwest Georgia and Tennessee Drug Distributors Sentenced to Federal Prison
On April 2, 2009, in Rome, Ga., three defendants were sentenced for their roles in importing and distributing drugs in the North Georgia area and Tennessee. Jose Hernadez, originally from Mexico, was sentenced to 20 years in prison; Paul Faulkner was sentenced to 20 years in prison; and Vance Rogers was sentenced to 46 months in prison. On March 12, 2009, Geronimo Gastelum was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on money laundering charges. Gastelum, lead conspirator in this case, moved to North Georgia from California in approximately 2005, and began to supply multi-kilogram quantities of drugs in the area, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The drug organization hired individuals to pick up drugs in vehicles equipped with tires packed with marijuana. Gastelum and several of his co-conspirators have ties to Mexico, which is believed to be the ultimate source of the drugs imported and where much of the cash proceeds were returned. A total of 10 members of this drug organization have pleaded guilty to drug distribution and money laundering charges. The defendants previously sentenced in the case received sentences between 107 months to 48 months in prison.
Major Cocaine Trafficker in North Carolina Sentenced on Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On March 27, 2009, in Raleigh, N.C., Julian Avilez-Lopez, of Newton Grove, North Carolina, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. Avilez-Lopez pleaded guilty in July 2008 to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine in the Eastern District of North Carolina, as well as a money laundering violation. Avilez-Lopez was the main target of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation. According to court documents, from approximately 2006 through February 2008, the organization distributed multiple kilograms of cocaine on behalf of a Mexican drug organization. Avilez-Lopez used the Tienda Avilez convenience store, which he operated in Newton Grove, as a base for his narcotics trafficking. The monetary proceeds of Avilez-Lopez and his coconspirators’ illegal activities were laundered through various bank accounts and through the store via domestic and international wire transfer services to Mexico and elsewhere. As a part of his guilty plea, Avilez-Lopez forfeited his interest in several pieces of real property located in Sampson County, North Carolina, all of which were used to facilitate his drug trafficking activities.
Jamaican Man Sentenced to 49 Months for Leading a Bi-Coastal Marijuana Trafficking and Money Laundering Ring
On March 19, 2009, in Camden, N.J., Richard Lawson was sentenced to 49 months in prison for his leadership role in a group that ran a bi-coastal marijuana trafficking and money laundering ring that originated in California and expanded into at least six other states. In addition to jail time, Lawson will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term and will cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs officials to resolve his immigration status. Lawson also forfeited $26,000 in cash to the government. A two-year multi-jurisdictional investigation resulted in the guilty pleas of Lawson and codefendants Daniel Adams, Sr., of San Diego; Daniel Adams, II, of San Diego and son of Adams, Sr.; and David John, of Swedesboro, N.J. Adams, Sr. was sentenced on March 18, 2009, to 37 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and forfeited $75,000 in cash. Adams, II was sentenced on March 19, 2009, to 10 months period of confinement, which is split evenly between prison and home confinement. John is awaiting sentencing. At his plea hearing, Lawson admitted that beginning in 2004 and continuing until April 2008, he was the leader of a group running a marijuana trafficking and money laundering ring that was responsible for purchasing large quantities of marijuana from Mexican suppliers and then redistributed the marijuana from San Diego to at least six other states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee. He admitted to establishing sham or fake corporations to provide a legitimate appearance for the drug trafficking activities and the resulting flow of drug proceeds. Lawson opened bank accounts to facilitate the deposit of payments of drug sales. Lawson admitted that he instructed the buyers to make deposits in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid causing the banks to file currency transaction reports. Furthermore, Lawson admitted he instructed the buyers to make multiple cash deposits at different bank branches in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid the reporting requirement. Between January 2004 and August 2006, Lawson stated approximately $1.9 million was deposited into accounts under his control.
Indiana Man Sentenced to 75 months, Loses Harleys for Money Laundering
On March 16, 2009 in Fort Wayne, Ind., Woodrow Alan Ormiston, Jr. was sentenced to 75 months in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering. According to court records, Ormiston was charged in a five count indictment with charges related to cocaine possession and distribution. Ormiston later pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment and to a one count information that charged him with money laundering relating to his attempt to refinance his home with more than $10,000 in drug profits. Ormiston agreed to forfeit $66,000 and two Harley motorcycles that were purchased with proceeds from drug trafficking.
San Diego Man Sentenced to 78 Months in Federal Prison on Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On February 27, 2009, in San Diego, Calif., Shaun Michael Fitch was sentenced to 78 months in prison for growing marijuana near an elementary school and money laundering. In his plea agreement, Fitch admitted that he grew marijuana at his residence in San Marcos, California. Fitch admitted that he engaged in money laundering when he purchased the residence for $431,987 by submitting false information in his loan application. He also admitted to growing marijuana at a second residence in San Marcos. In connection with the money laundering count, Fitch admitted that he knowingly and intentionally submitted materially false information to lenders about the true source of his income, the amount of income, and his employment history. This investigation was conducted as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Cocaine Dealer Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison on Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On February 17, 2009, in Pittsburgh, Pa., Jamie Luiz Lightfoot, aka Jammie Luis Arnold, a resident of Donora, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 168 months imprisonment, followed by six years of supervised release, on his conviction of violating federal narcotics and money laundering laws. According to information presented to the court, on February 9, 2007, Lightfoot sold an ounce of cocaine. At the time, Lighfoot was serving a term of supervised release. Also, on July 17, 2007, Lightfoot used drug money to purchase an $11,797 diamond ring. This investigation was conducted under the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Mexican National Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Money Laundering Drug Proceeds
On February 13, 2009, in Denver, Colo., Saul Saucedo, a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced to 180 months (15 years) in prison and fined $300,000 for money laundering related to a drug trafficking organization. Saucedo was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver in 2003 for his involvement in a large scale drug trafficking organization, located in Peyton, Colorado. He was extradited by Mexican authorities to the United States in January 2007, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money charges in October 2008. According to his plea agreement, as well as the indictment, he used a 500 acre rural ranch as a base of operations to transport large shipments of cocaine and drug proceeds. Saucedo was responsible for the movement of money, as well as running certain cells within several U.S. cities. Once the cocaine was sold, the drug proceeds were collected and often transported back to his Peyton, Colorado ranch. The investigation revealed that up to $2.5 million in cash at a time would be collected and transported by the organization’s couriers. From the ranch, the money was delivered to the kingpins in Mexico. The organization also controlled a residence in El Paso, Texas where the drug proceeds were frequently delivered. Once the drug proceeds reached the El Paso residence, the proceeds would be loaded into vehicles with hidden compartments and then driven from the United States to Mexico. Approximately 2,300 kilograms (approximately 5,000 pounds) of cocaine and $11 million in drug proceeds were seized by authorities. The investigation also revealed that one courier alone transported over $43 million to Mexico during a 12 month time period.
Pittsburgh Man Sentenced to Over 11 Years in Prison on Money Laundering and Drug Charges
On February 12, 2009, in Pittsburgh, Pa., Channing M. Jackson, III, was sentenced to 135 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release on his conviction of violating federal narcotics and money laundering laws. According to information presented to the court, from 2002 to November 2006, Jackson conspired to distribute up to 50 kilograms of cocaine in Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties. From in or around April 2006 until in or around November 2006, Jackson conspired with another individual to launder the proceeds of his drug trafficking, and between 2002 and 2006 he laundered additional profits from drug trafficking through two bank accounts of a former girlfriend, which were used to pay his personal living expenses. The value of the monies laundered was approximately $421,000. Jackson also agreed to forfeit additional cash and personal property to the United States.
Carbondale, Ill. Man Sentenced to 92 Months on Marijuana Trafficking and Unlawful Cash Transactions
On February 9, 2009 in East St. Louis, Ill., Kerry L. Smith, of Carbondale, was sentenced to 92 months in prison on charges of marijuana trafficking, concealment of material information from the Social Security Administration, two counts of making a false statement and unlawful monetary transaction charges. According to court records, from at least May 2001 through February 2007, Smith was involved with others in the distribution of marijuana. Smith acquired properties and assets as a result of the marihuana distribution, including $12,000 spent from drug proceeds on a 1998 Chevrolet Corvette. Smith also misled the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to collect Supplemental Security Income and food stamps. In September 2008, Smith pleaded guilty to the charges. Smith's guilty plea also included provisions for the forfeiture of multiple residences, vehicles, United States currency, and personal property. The court ordered Smith to pay $41,802 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and the Illinois Department of Human Services. Additionally, Smith was ordered to forfeit seven Carbondale residences, two vehicles, $10,576 cash and other property.
Texas Woman Sentenced for Money Laundering for Boyfriend’s Drug Organization
On February 4, 2009, in Waco, Texas, Rebeca Gomez was sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for money laundering. Gomez pleaded guilty in October 2008 to conspiring with boyfriend Miguel Camarena to use the money generated from the sale of controlled substances to buy property and vehicles. The properties were placed in her name to hide the true ownership of the assets knowing that the proceeds came from the illegal sale of controlled substances. According to the indictment, Camarena used one residence to store and distribute cocaine and methamphetamine. During the term of the conspiracy at least $1.1 in proceeds were generated from the sale of these controlled substances.
Alabama Man Sentenced for Drug Conspiracy
On February 3, 2009, in Mobile, Ala., Alvin T. Knox was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in distributing more than 300 kilograms of cocaine from 1999 through 2005. The judge also ordered the forfeiture of $687,500 in drug proceeds as a part of the sentence. Knox pleaded guilty to a drug distribution conspiracy and money laundering charges in July 2006. Court records showed that Knox became involved in the drug conspiracy through family connections. Charges against Knox’s father, Benjamin Knox, remain pending. Court records showed that Knox and other family members had connections to drug suppliers in Texas. From 1999 through 2002, Ramon Garza, another member of the conspiracy who was convicted in a trial last month, supplied 104 kilograms of cocaine. According to court documents, documentation was obtained through telephone records, records of airline travel, bank records, tax records and other businesses which showed extensive contact with co-conspirators. Federal investigators identified a business, San Francisco Warehouse in Garciasville, Texas, that was used as a front to conceal their drug distribution activities and to launder drug proceeds.
Florida Doctor Sentenced for Role in Massive Illegal Distribution of Prescription Painkillers over the Internet
On January 29, 2009, in Tampa, Fla., Juan A. Ibanez was sentenced to 51 months in prison for his role in the illegal distribution of millions of doses of hydrocodone, a highly addictive prescription pain killer, over the internet. Ibanez, a physician, pleaded guilty to federal drug and money laundering charges. According to the plea agreement, between 2003 and December 2007, Ibanez's criminal organization grossed in excess of $85 million by distributing over 50 million hydrocodone pills to customers located throughout the United States who had placed orders on the various Internet Web site clinics owned and operated by Ibanez and others. During the course of the conspiracy, Ibanez personally had authorized, or allowed his name, scanned signature, and DEA registration number to be used to authorize, 74,000 orders for hydrocodone. Additionally, Ibanez recruited, hired and managed, or caused others to recruit, hire and manage, numerous physicians from Florida and several other states to allow their scanned signatures and DEA controlled substance registration numbers to be used on orders purporting to be prescriptions for hydrocodone. These physicians never personally consulted with the customers or reviewed the purported medical records of the customers, or after having done so, had rejected the medical records or otherwise declined to authorize the issuance of the prescriptions. The defendants engaged in financial transactions involving the proceeds of the conspiracies. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy generated over $85,000,000 in proceeds.
Dallas Restaurant Owner Sentenced to 14 Months in Federal Prison on Fraud and False Statement Conviction
On January 29, 2009, in Dallas, Texas, restaurant owner Gricelda Ramirez was sentenced to 14 months in prison following her October 2008 guilty plea to one count of fraud and false statements. Ramirez has been in federal custody since surrendering to federal authorities in June 2008. She is a U.S. citizen, but according to a detention order entered in the case, since 2003, she has lived in Mexico with her husband, a Mexican citizen, and her two children, who attend school in Mexico. According to the factual resume filed in the case, Ramirez admitted that she omitted reporting approximately $560,000 in her business’s 2005 gross receipts on her 2005 personal income tax return. Ramirez admitted that in 2005, her restaurant business had gross receipts of $1,056,201, when in reality, her business had gross receipts of at least $1,614,740. As part of her plea agreement with the government, Ramirez paid $170,532 in restitution. This is the amount of federal income tax that was remaining due for the 2004 ($17,009) and 2005 ($153,523) tax years. According to court documents, including a complaint for forfeiture and a detention order, federal agents seized approximately $1.4 million from a residence in Dallas, as well as financial records concerning Gricelda Ramirez and Taqueria El Paisano during a narcotics investigation in 2006. As a result of the seizure, law enforcement began investigating Gricelda Ramirez’s restaurant. The investigation of the seized financial records revealed that approximately $1.8 million in currency was deposited into three accounts at bank. Photographs and testimony provided by employees of at the bank indicated that both Gricelda Ramirez and a relative made these deposits. During this time, no single deposit exceeding $10,000, (the reporting requirement) was made to any of the three accounts. In August and September 2006, $1,023,990 was seized from the three bank accounts during the execution of federal search warrants. According to the complaint for forfeiture, federal income tax returns filed by Ramirez for 2002 - 2005, indicate that she operated Taqueria El Paisano as a sole proprietorship and had no other income than that derived from the restaurants. The complaint for forfeiture further states that the total net profits reported on her 2002 - 2005 returns do not explain the large amount of currency seized in the case.
Indiana Marijuana Dealer Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison
On January 23, 2009 in South Bend, Ind., Randy Reed Lipscomb was sentenced to 10 years in prison for engaging in monetary transactions with the proceeds from illegal marijuana sales and for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Lipscomb was charged in June 2008, and later pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges. According to court records, Lipscomb admitted that he arranged for others to travel to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and ship marijuana to him via UPS, or he would have it driven back to Michigan City where it was distributed to several customers. Additionally, Lipscomb admitted that four forfeited vehicles were purchased with drug proceeds, or he used them to facilitate his drug trafficking activities, and that he spent more than $10,000 in drug trafficking proceeds to purchase the assets.
Minnesota Brothers Sentenced for Distributing Cocaine, Crack Cocaine
On January 14, 2009, in Minneapolis, Minn., Antwoyn Terrell Spencer was sentenced to 324 months in prison and 10 years supervised release on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine, one count of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine and one count of money laundering. His brother, Derrick Jerome Spencer, was sentenced to 292 months in prison and 10 years supervised release on one count of conspiracy and two counts of distribution of cocaine. According to court documents, both men conspired to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and 50 or more grams of crack cocaine. Derrick Spencer was found guilty of distributing approximately nine ounces of cocaine as well as approximately 13.5 ounces of cocaine in May 2006. Antwoyn Spencer was found guilty of money laundering based on his use of $22,900 in drug money to buy real estate. He created false documents and ran money through the bank account of another person in order to conceal the nature and source of the money.
Minnesota Brothers Sentenced for Distributing Cocaine, Crack Cocaine and Money Laundering
On January 13, 2009, in Minneapolis, Minn., Antwoyn Terrell Spencer was sentenced to 324 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine and money laundering. Spencer’s brother, Derrick Jerome Spencer received a 292 month prison sentence for conspiracy and distribution charges. Both men were indicted in May 2007 and were convicted in September 2007. According to court documents, both men conspired with each other and others to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine from 1998 through May 2007. Antwoyn Spencer was found guilty of money laundering based on his use of $22,900 in drug money to make a down payment on real estate property. He created false documents and ran money through the bank account of another person in order to conceal the nature and source of the money.
Internet Pharmacy Owners Sentenced to Five Years in Prison and Ordered to Pay Over $11 Million for Illegal Sales of 10 Million Hydrocodone Pills
On January 9, 2009, in Baltimore, Md, the Chief U.S. District Judge announced the sentencing of two defendants on charges of illegally selling 9,936,075 pills or dosage units of hydrocodone over the Internet, conspiracy to launder money, engaging in monetary transactions using the proceeds of the illegal drug sales and filing false tax returns. Steven Abiodun Sodipo and Callixtus Onigbo Nwaehiri were pharmacists and owners of NewCare Pharmacy located in Baltimore City, Maryland. In December 2008, Sodipo and Nwaehiri were sentenced to 60 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered to each pay $11,870,119 in restitution. According to court documents, the restitution amounted to the gross proceeds derived from the illegal sale of hydrocodone by NewCare Pharmacy from January 2005 to October 2006, and, in order to satisfy such money judgment, the defendants were ordered to forfeit their homes, seven cars, monies held in 33 bank accounts and a business property owned by Sodipo. According to testimony presented during the six week trial, beginning no later than sometime in 2004 through October 10, 2006, Sopido and Nwaehiri joined a nationwide conspiracy to illegally sell hydrocodone through the Internet to any customer with a valid credit card. Specifically, they engaged in agreements with web-site operators to fill hydrocodone prescriptions e-mailed to them that were signed by a small group of doctors and were for individuals all across the country. The doctors, who never saw or spoke to customers, routinely authorized the prescriptions, which were then wired to NewCare for filling and shipment. In return, NewCare was paid $20 for each prescription it filled and shipped. According to trial testimony, Sodipo and Nwaehiri engaged in monetary transactions with criminally derived proceeds from the illegal sale of hydrocodone, depositing their checks into a NewCare bank account. Sodipo and Nwaehiri filed false individual tax returns in 2005, understating the income that they received. At the sentencing hearings, it was revealed that the nationwide conspiracy to illegally sell hydrocodone over the Internet involved over 50 pharmacies, doctors and physician assistants, and totaled sales in excess of $108 million.
Drug Kingpin Sentenced To 20 Years in Federal Prison
On January 5, 2009, in Phoenix, Ariz., Martin Angel Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in prison for operating a large drug trafficking ring out of Phoenix. The judge also imposed a $10 million money judgment against Gonzalez who pleaded guilty on September 12, 2008, to being the leader of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. Gonzalez had been charged with various drug trafficking offenses as part of a 70-count superseding indictment related to his leadership of a 12-year conspiracy involving the distribution of over 30,000 kilograms of marijuana worth more than $33 million. Twenty-five other co-conspirators were also charged and have pleaded guilty for their involvement in the conspiracy. Many will be sentenced over the next few months. During the investigation, agents seized approximately 5,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $15 million in organizational assets. These assets included cash, investment accounts, bank accounts, vehicles, jewelry and real estate properties. He distributed marijuana to his associates across the country using commercial trucks, personal vehicles and commercial shipping companies. Gonzalez was arrested in Morelia, Michoacàn, Mexico, with the assistance of Mexican federal law enforcement authorities. He was extradited from Mexico to the United States in 2006.
Cocaine Trafficker Sentenced in Absentia to 30 Years in Prison
On December 4, 2008, in Macon, Ga., Anthony Sean Walker, of Omega, Georgia, was sentenced on to 30 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. As part of a plea agreement, Walker acknowledged that he routinely obtained 50 to 70 kilograms of cocaine monthly which he distributed to cocaine dealers in the Tift County area. As part of the investigation, law enforcement officers intercepted a tractor trailer truck which was used by Walker to transport drug proceeds. A search of the truck uncovered $800,000 in drug money which was being shipped to California as payment for cocaine. A search of Walker’s residence uncovered $13,159 in drug proceeds. According to court documents, Walker also pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Following entry of Walker’s guilty plea, he was released on bond pending sentencing. Walker fled and has remained a fugitive. The government filed a motion to sentence Walker in absentia.
Leader of Drug Conspiracy Sentenced to 33 1/3 Years in Prison
On November 21, 2008, in St. Louis, Mo., Avery West was sentenced to 400 months in prison on drug and money laundering charges involving the distribution of large amounts of cocaine in the St. Louis area. According to court documents, from October 2005 through 2007, West was the leader of a drug network in North St. Louis County which was responsible for the distribution of 11 kilograms of cocaine and 300 grams of crack cocaine. Five co-defendants handled large quantities of drugs by concealing, transporting and selling them. Four of these defendants received sentences of 10 years and one received a five-year sentence. On July 30, 2008, West was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiracy to distribute in excess of 5 kilograms of cocaine and in excess of 50 grams of crack cocaine, one count of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, one count of possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, and one count of money laundering. West was also convicted of concealing assets and ordered to forfeit five cars and over $40,000.
Defendant Sentenced to 140 Months on Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On November 14, 2008, in Cleveland, Ohio, Kevin Terrell Tyler was sentenced to 140 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $700 special assessment. Tyler was one of 17 defendants indicted in December 2007 on violations of narcotics and money laundering charges. Specifically, Tyler was charged with receiving and distributing at least 1,800 kilograms of cocaine between May 2004 and February 2006. Tyler insulated himself from the organization, and thus law enforcement, by using others to deliver cocaine and money to the suppliers. The indictment alleged that Kevin Tyler protected himself by speaking guardedly on the telephone and frequently changing his cellular telephones. Tyler and other members of his family and immediate associates conspired to take drug proceeds and invest them in businesses and bank accounts. In May 2006, Kevin Tyler delivered $99,980 in U.S. currency to a person he believed to be a corrupt banker. That person actually was an agent acting in an undercover capacity as a corrupt banker who would take cash proceeds from illegal activity and infuse the proceeds into the banking system.
Heroin Supplier Sentenced in Ohio
On November 12, 2008, in Columbus, Ohio, Pedro Montan, a/k/a “Cribby”, of Bronx, New York was sentenced to serve 51 months of incarceration, and three years of supervised release for his role in a heroin distribution ring that brought between one and three kilograms of heroin into Columbus, Ohio. Montan pleaded guilty in February 2008 to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to distribute heroin. According to court documents, investigators encountered several individuals trafficking heroin in the Columbus area, and detected an increase in heroin use in the area. Kevin Grant and Dayrel Billingsley were identified as two of the main heroin distributors in the Columbus area. Evidence was developed through monitored conversations and cooperating witnesses indicating that Grant and Billingsley were obtaining their heroin from suppliers in New York, more specifically, Pedro Montan. Billingsley sent monies owed to Montan for the heroin via Western Union. Montan provided Billingsley with names of individuals to be used on money wires. Billingsley used his brother, brother’s girlfriend and his own girlfriend to send the wires.
Virginia Man Sentenced on Drug, Conspiracy, and Gambling Charges
On October 24, 2008, in Alexandria, Va., Dwight F. Day, Jr., of Fairfax Station, Virginia, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $250,000 fine. Day was ordered to forfeit more than $2 million as part of his sentence. In August 2008, Day pleaded guilty to drug, conspiracy, and gambling charges. According to court documents, Day bought and sold cocaine to friends and business associates from January 2006 through May 2008. From September 2005 through May 2008, Day also worked as a bookie in an illegal sports betting operation using an Web site to accept bets. Day and another individual then collected gambling debts, and Day made repayments to a third person in amounts up to $180,000 cash at a time. More than $1 million in cash was seized by law enforcement during the course of the investigation.
Man Extradited from Mexico Sentenced on Drug and Money Laundering Charges
On October 24, 2008, in Lubbock, Texas, Juan Arturo Yu, Jr., was sentenced to 87 months in prison for his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy that illegally transported large quantities of Ritalin, anabolic steroids, Valium and Rohypnol into the U.S. for distribution. Specifically, Yu pleaded guilty in July 2008 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and four counts of money laundering. Yu had recently been extradited from Mexico to the U.S. to face the charges. According to court documents, Yu operated a pharmacy in Mexico and through his pharmacy, he would obtain large quantities drugs which he illegally imported, or caused to be illegally imported, into the U.S. through El Paso. Yu facilitated the conspiracy by: (1) sending illegal controlled substances to customers in various parts of the country; (2) giving instructions on how much payment was expected for those controlled substances and the method of payment to be used; (3) accepting packages containing payments for illegal controlled substances at various locations in El Paso, Texas; and (4) disposing of those illegal drug proceeds through various financial transactions. In his plea agreement, Yu admitted that he aided and abetted a co-conspirator in knowingly conducting or attempting to conduct financial transactions involving the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity, namely, narcotics trafficking. Yu admitted that he intended to promote the carrying on of the specified unlawful activity or knew that the transaction was designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of those proceeds, in that the proceeds were sent to one of Yu’s family members but were intended for Yu in payment for controlled substances.
Fiscal Year 2008 - Examples of Narcotics-Related Financial Investigations
Fiscal Year 2007 - Examples of Narcotics-Related Financial Investigations
Table of Contents - Narcotics-Related Financial Investigations
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