OCT 30 (LAREDO, Texas) – Two men have entered pleas of guilty and two more have received sentences for their roles in a money laundering investigation relating to the laundering of millions of drug proceeds by Los Zetas, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Nelson Casarez, 35, and Miguel Santos, 42, both of Laredo, were sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo, while Laurencio Montes, 43, and Jose Luis Gonzales, 28, also of Laredo, entered pleas of guilty yesterday in federal court in Laredo.
Casarez and Santos, who had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds, were sentenced to 108 months and 72 months, respectively. The court also executed a final order of forfeiture for a money judgment against Casarez in the amount of $2,999,310 and $4 million as to Santos.
Casarez provided a tractor trailer yard in Laredo for use by the Los Zetas money laundering organization. It served as a receiving station for other co-conspirators who transported bulk cash drug proceeds in tractor trailers from the Chicago, Ill., area to Laredo. Casarez then coordinated the receipt of bulk cash drug proceeds and the transfer of the funds to other co-conspirators who would transport the drug proceeds to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, for ultimate delivery to the Zeta organization. Casarez was implicated in having been involved in the laundering of approximately $5 million. Santos was implicated in the conspiracy as a commercial truck driver who transported drug proceeds from the Chicago area to Laredo. Santos was implicated in transporting drug proceeds on at least two occasions in 2010 with each bulk shipment totaling approximately $2 million.
Montes and Gonzalez each entered a plea of guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds. Montes recruited truck drivers to transport bulk cash drug proceeds for the organization and coordinated the cash deliveries from the Chicago area to Laredo totaling approximately $6 million. Gonzales was a facilitator who assisted his brother-in-law, Casarez, at the truck yard. Gonzales assisted Casarez in receiving the money in Laredo and safekeeping it until other co-conspirators were sent to pick it up and transport it to Nuevo Laredo. Gonzales was implicated for laundering approximately $3 million.
In addition to accepting the pleas of guilty the court executed a preliminary order of forfeiture in the amount of $6 million against Montes and $2,999,319 against Gonzales. They are set for sentencing on Jan. 15, 2013.
The pleas of Montes and Gonzalez mark the sixth and seventh convictions in Laredo relating to this indictment. To date, three others have been sentenced to varying terms ranging from 84-97 months and were each ordered to forfeit $1-2 million.
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation El Chacal began in 2010 and culminated in several indictments being returned in November 2011 in Laredo, San Antonio and Chicago. During the course of the investigation, agents were able to seize from various tractor trailer drivers, other couriers and stash homes a total of approximately $21 million in drug proceeds destined to be transported to the Republic of Mexico for delivery to the Zeta Drug Trafficking Organization.
The case was investigated by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Mary Lou Castillo prosecuted the case.