Smashed windows marked one of many scenes where about 1,000 federal agents raided Los Angeles Fashion District businesses, seizing roughly $65 million in cash and arresting nine suspects in an alleged money laundering scheme involving Mexican drug cartels.
Raids were executed at 70 businesses, according to the Los Angeles Times. Federal authorities assert that drug organizations use garment district and other businesses to convert drug money into pesos through trade-based laundering.
The Times reported comments from assistant U.S. attorney in charge of federal criminal prosecutions Robert E. Dugdale: “Los Angeles has become the epicenter of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses.”
According to the Associated Press: “The U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that agents seized the funds in cash and bank accounts as part of a probe following three separate indictments on charges of money laundering and other financial violations.”
Typically, peso brokers would allegedly arrange for U.S. based cartel drug traffickers to pay for goods in L.A. The goods would be exported to Mexico. The Mexican importers would then allegedly pay the peso brokers, who would take a cut and deliver the rest of the funds to the cartel drug traffickers as detailed in the Times.
Several L.A. peso brokerages were infiltrated, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Undercover agents delivered bundles of cash to fashion district businesses that were even told the money came from drug trafficking, reported the Times.
Prosecutors have even alleged that the Sinaloa cartel directed a kidnapped man’s family to pay ransom funds directly to Q.T. Fashion Inc. as part of a laundering transaction. The man, a drug distributor, had reportedly become indebted to the cartel. Other businesses were also mentioned in three indictments released Wednesday.
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Photo: Nick Ut/AP