BY ACTING DEA ADMINISTRATOR
According to Donnie R. Marshall, Acting DEA Administrator, "It is the enormous profits to be gained from drug trafficking which fuels the drug trade. DEA has had great success over the years in setting up 'front' money laundering operations to take down drug traffickers. The quantities of cash that traffickers take in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis is staggering. Each $20 bill must be transported or 'laundered' so the drug cartels can enjoy their profits. Through the offer of complex financial services, we successfully struck where it hurts, in their pockets."
"OPERATION JUNO represents a new level of U.S./Colombian cooperation. This is the first time Colombian authorities have seized this volume of trafficker accounts based on information derived from a joint investigation by U.S. law enforcement agencies. The narco dollars were sold on the black market in exchange for Colombian pesos. We will also go after the dollar accounts in the U.S., and other foreign countries that have received laundered monies," Marshall added. "This is a significant step in striking out against the black market peso system that launders billions of drug dollars every year. U.S. businesses should be cautious and diligent about accepting third party payments for goods shipped or purchased by drug producing countries."
"OPERATION JUNO" INDICTMENT TARGETS FIVE MAJOR TRAFFICKERS AND $26 MILLION WORTH OF LAUNDERED DRUG PROCEEDS
Richard H. Deane, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia; John Andrejko, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Andre Martin, Chief, Criminal Investigation Division, Internal Revenue Service; Beverly Harvard, Chief, Atlanta Police Department; Bobby Moody, Chief, Marietta Police Department-, and Ron Davis, Chief, Doraville Police Department, announce that a federal grand jury in Atlanta has returned separate indictments against 5 defendants from Colombia, and other charges are now pending in other states in the United States and several countries around the world, relating to a multi-million dollar scheme involving money laundering and drug distribution. According to Deane:
The indictments name ARMANDO MOGOLLON, 36, a/k/a "Nicolas," HECTOR FABIO BOTERO, 35, a/k/a "Rigoberto," JUAN MONTOYA, 51, JUAN CARLOS ARIAS, 39, and SAMUEL VALLEJO, 39, all of Colombia, and who are currently believed to be in Colombia, and charge the defendants with conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to traffic in drugs, and multiple money laundering counts, The indictments charge that from October 1996, to August 1999, the defendants conspired to launder drug money and traffic in narcotics in the Northern District of Georgia and elsewhere.
Besides the five named defendants above, 40 arrests have been made in the United States during the course of the investigation. 15 additional defendants are in the process of being arrested today in New York and Chicago during the takedown process of "Operation Juno," and they face charges in those respective federal jurisdictions. Civil seizure warrants are also being brought against 59 domestic bank accounts worldwide. Approximately $26 million in drug proceeds were targeted for seizure. $10 million was seized during the investigation, and the balance is being seized in 59 accounts at 34 U.S banks, and 282 accounts at 52 foreign banks.
During the course of the investigation 59 pickups of U.S. dollars were affected. Subsequent enforcement activity resulting from these pickups led to the seizure of 3,601 kilograms of cocaine, 106 grams of hashish oil.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division began a pro-active undercover money laundering "sting" investigation in September 1996, and called it "Operation Juno," based out of a rented office building in suburban Atlanta, with a company called "Airmark." DEA and IRS-CID Special Agents gained permission from the Attorney General to open a legitimate stockbrokerage firm in that office which served to validate the undercover money laundering operation. (NOTE No stock trades were executed through the undercover stockbrokerage firm.)
Operation Juno was initiated after the seizure of approximately 386 kilograms of liquid cocaine, which had been found concealed and shipped in frozen fish from Cartagena, Colombia, in July 1995, and shipped under the name of the Colombian company "COLAPIA S.A," whose U.S. distribution center was in the Atlanta area.
Investigation of "COLAPIA S A," revealed that company indicated that the Atlanta owner was a partner with Arfranio ("Phanor") Arizabaleta Arzayur, a prominent Cali, Colombia, narcotics trafficker. Members of his organization referred Operation Juno to other drug trafficking organizations in need of financial and money laundering services. Operation Juno then targeted those drug trafficking organizations, their associates and activities, by offering financial services to launder their drug proceeds.
At the request of one of the five indicted defendants, Operation Juno would pick up drug proceeds usually ranging between $100,000 and $500,000 in U.S. currency. The pickup of drug proceeds was conducted in public areas such as restaurants, parking lots, shopping centers and city streets. The narcotic proceeds that were provided to Operation Juno personnel in cash were often delivered in gym bags, duffle bags, luggage, and boxes. Drug money pickups were made in Dallas, Houston, New York, Newark, Providence, Miami, Chicago, Madrid, Spain, and Rome, Italy. Operation Juno later wire transferred the monies from the collection city to an undercover bank account in Atlanta. The monies were then distributed to various accounts in the U.S. and around the world at the direction of the targeted individuals.
Operation Juno then contracted a third-party money exchanger in Colombia, who typically would sell the U.S. dollars for pesos on the Colombian Black Market peso Exchange. Colombian businessmen, who needed U.S. dollars for purchases of computers, electronic equipment, and other goods and services from companies in the United States, and were attempting to evade Colombia's restrictions, tariffs, and taxes, contracted the third-party money exchanger to pay their bills in the U.S. with those same dollars, which technically never left the United States. The Colombian businessmen would tell the third party money exchanger where Operation Juno should wire transfer the dollars. The Colombian businessmen would then release an equal amount of pesos to the dollars they received, and the third-party exchanger, at the direction of Operation Juno, then deposited the pesos into the drug traffickers' designated accounts in Colombia. Once the Colombian pesos were deposited into the designated bank accounts, the money laundering contract with the narcotics traffickers was fulfilled.
Richard H, Deane, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia said of the case. "The many agents involved in this case have demonstrated outstanding cooperation and many, many long-term contributions that have set this case apart. I commend all of them for their efforts." Lawrence 0. Anderson, of the Drug Division of the United States Attorney's Office told a morning news conference held at the DeKalb County office site of the undercover operation, "This was an extremely complex case where, in essence, the defendants took millions of dollars in drug money in the U.S., and millions in pesos in Colombia, and laundered them both without the money physically leaving either country. It was only because of the tireless work of the investigators that these drug kingpins and runners around the U.S. and the world are now debilitated."
DEA Special Agent In Charge John Andrejko said of the case, "For the first time in drug enforcement history, the U.S. government has set up an undercover stockbrokerage firm to aid in intercepting drug dollars destined for the Colombian black market. U.S. businesses must be diligent about accepting third party payments from countries where there is a known drug trafficking problem. We hope this is a significant first step in striking out against the black market peso system that launders billions of drug dollars every year."
IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Andre Martin said of the case, "The black market peso exchange is another example of the evolutionary nature of sophisticated money laundering, and the increasing nonfactor of geographical boundaries as an impediment to the facilitation of financial crimes. Along with the internet, this type of financial transaction exchange represents the new frontier of money laundering."
In connection with the Operation Juno investigation, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint on November 23, 1999, in U. S. District Court in the District of Columbia seeking forfeiture of laundered narcotics proceeds traced to approximately 300 foreign bank accounts, including over 250 accounts in Colombia.
(News Media Note- background material including graphics and additional details concerning Operation Juno are available in a separate booklet at the news conference.)
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Atlanta Police Department, the City of Marietta Police Department, and the Doraville Police Department. The United States Attorney's Office and investigators also wish to acknowledge the assistance of the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Washington, D.C.; FinCEN, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and NDIC, the United States Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, in this case.
Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence O. Anderson is prosecuting the case in Atlanta.
For further information please contact Richard H. Deane, Jr., United States Attorney, or James T. Martin, Chief, Drug Division, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U. S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.Iaw.emory.edu/USAO