Task Force Comprised of Federal and Local Officials Crack Drug Ring
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Authorities say they seized $11.6 million in cash and $20 million worth of cocaine with the arrest of five people accused of laundering money made in the distribution of illegal drugs.
The arrests broke up a ring which operated in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Robert C. Bonner said at a news conference here Monday.
During the inquiry, undercover agents posed as go-betweens for a corrupt banker, who did not exist.
Financial institutions helped the case by reporting the unusually large deposits to federal agents, said Bonner. He refused to name the banks which cooperated. Bonner said no more arrests were anticipated.
The money ″represents the largest collective seizure of cash ever in a single coordinated drug case,″ Bonner said. Agents seized 254 pounds of cocaine, he said.
The money was first deposited in banks in California and Florida, and ultimately transferred by wire to designated bank accounts in Panama, New York and southern Florida, according to court documents.
Between the start of the investigation in September 1985 and this month, about 23 currency transactions ranging in size from $103,350 to $1 million took place, according to a complaint filed in the case.
Carlos Sarmiento-Arechederra and Roberto del Pino Sousa, named by authorities as ringleaders, were arrested along with Oswaldo Vera in Miami on Friday. On the West Coast, Enrique Fernandez, of Seal Beach, was arrested the same day. All four Venezuelans were charged in complaints issued after their arrests, Bonner said.
Luis Morales of Uruguay was arrested in New York City on Friday, but charges against him were filed in Miami, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Sun said.
The cash was seized in New York City and Miami, while the cocaine was seized in Los Angeles, Sun said.
The five were charged with aiding and abetting in the possession and distribution of cocaine and conspiring to defraud the United States, said Bonner.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
All the defendants remain in custody without bond.