JUN 23 (NEWARK, N.J.) -The United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint today seeking to forfeit $1,742,289, previously seized from cellular phone wholesale company Cellular Next LLC, which allegedly represents narcotics proceeds laundered through the Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE), U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
According to the complaint filed today in Newark federal court:
Cellular Next, which operates out of New York and Miami and is registered as a business entity in New Jersey, has a history of receiving narcotics proceeds. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) undercover agents have sent wire transfers of such proceeds to the company at the direction of BMPE brokers based in Colombia.
The BMPE is a currency exchange system which uses illegal drug proceeds in the United States to pay for goods that then are shipped to Colombia. It is the primary method used by Colombian narcotics traffickers to launder their illicit funds. The recipients in Colombia pay for those goods in pesos, which are then forwarded to the narcotics traffickers. The system allows narcotics traffickers to launder and transport their narcotics dollars through the United States financial system by using domestic accounts held by businesses or individuals doing business in the United States. Seizure and forfeiture actions are aimed at disrupting and destroying the flow of these narcotics dollars by targeting the domestic accounts and the entities that receive these illicit funds.
Representatives of Cellular Next have, on numerous occasions, received narcotics proceeds without asking for the appropriate identification or filing the appropriate paperwork to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, which was designed to combat money laundering. Cellular Next has a history of having its bank accounts closed by financial institutions for misuse, for having allowed large numbers of structured cash deposits from at least 2010 through 2013.
One money laundering customer sent the $1.7 million the government seeks to forfeit to Cellular Next LLC using BMPE.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, comprising agents and officers from DEA New York, New York City Police Department and New York State Police; and agents and officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees in Newark, with the ongoing investigation.The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan S. Weitz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.