Drug Enforcement Administration

New Orleans

Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent in Charge

May 03, 2017

Contact: SA Debbie Webber

Phone Number: (504) 840-1100

Operation Wild Wild East: Conviction On Drug Money Laundering Charges For New Orleans Man

NEW ORLEANS - Yesterday a federal jury convicted Cornell Pendleton, age 51, of the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans for his role in laundering money on behalf of heroin dealers in the New Orleans area, announced DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen G. Azzam and Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans. 

Following a weeklong trial the jury found Pendleton guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering; numerous substantive money laundering offenses involving the illegal purchase of real property and cars on behalf of heroin dealers; structuring his cash deposits; and two counts of providing false statements on loan applications. The jury also found that Pendleton must forfeit over $1 million in cash and assets that were involved in his criminal activities.

 According to the evidence at trial, the case against Pendleton stemmed from a DEA investigation of a heroin-trafficking organization that operated in New Orleans East. The original investigation, nicknamed “Wild Wild East” began in 2013 and has since resulted in the conviction of twelve New Orleans-based heroin dealers.

Through that investigation, the government began developing evidence that Pendleton was helping drug dealers to acquire high-end assets in an effort to conceal the proceeds of their drug operation. These high-end assets included multiple cars, such as Mercedes, Porsche, Corvette, Bentley, and BMW; residential and investment real estate; jewelry, including Rolex watches; and other expensive items. Pendleton’s scheme involved purchasing assets in his own name, and then allowing the drug dealers to use the assets while making sizable, off-the-books payments to Pendleton. Once an asset was fully paid off, Pendleton would often transfer title of the asset back to the drug dealer.  Pendleton was paid entirely in cash for his assistance in acquiring these assets. The evidence showed that, over a two and a half year period between 2012 and 2014, Pendleton deposited over $1.5 million in cash into four bank accounts, while knowing that the cash included illegal drug proceeds.

Pendleton faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for his crimes. Sentencing is scheduled for August 10, 2017.

DEA, Kenner Police Department and Border Patrol investigated this case.

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov. 

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