July 02, 2018
Contact: SA Timothy Massino
Phone Number: (213) 621-6700
Las Vegas Real Estate Broker Arrested On Money Laundering Charges
(LOS ANGELES) - David J. Downing, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced today that Luis Eduardo Rodriguez has been charged for his role in laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds through Las Vegas real estate, and through multiple Nevada shell corporations, in order to send those proceeds to narcotics traffickers and money launderers based in Mexico. Rodriguez was arrested this morning in Las Vegas, and will be presented in federal court today in the District of Nevada.
The criminal complaint, which was filed under seal on June 28, 2018, alleges that Rodriguez worked at the direction of Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez, the leader of an international money laundering and narcotics trafficking organization (the “Organization”). In June 2017, Rodriguez-Jimenez pleaded guilty to laundering in excess of $250 million in drug proceeds on behalf of drug cartels in Mexico and Central America through a variety of methods, including through seemingly “legitimate” corporations, shell bank accounts, and money couriers based in the United States and Europe. Rodriguez served as one conduit through which the Organization laundered drug money.
DEA SAC David J. Downing said: “The actions of the accused illustrate the methods drug trafficking organizations utilize to infiltrate our communities and attempt to legitimize their criminal enterprise, but this arrest exemplifies the tremendous steps taken by law enforcement to uproot and remove them.”
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, Luis Eduardo Rodriguez assisted a major international drug trafficking organization in laundering the proceeds of its illegal operations. Rodriguez allegedly laundered drug proceeds through Las Vegas real estate transactions, and assisted in recruiting people to act as straw-man ‘managers’ of shell companies for the trafficking organization. Now, thanks to the DEA, Rodriguez is in custody and facing prosecution.”
Since July 2013, the DEA has been investigating the Organization and its cartel clients, which together have been involved in trafficking hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and heroin, among other narcotics, and laundering narcotics proceeds through a variety of methods. The Organization has ties to Panama, Mexico, Italy, Spain, and the United States, among other locations, and its members are believed to include the defendant. Eight members of the Organization have previously been charged in the Southern District of New York, including in the indictment captioned United States v. Rodriguez-Jimenez et al., 16 Cr. 644 (KBF) filed on September 22, 2016.
In furtherance of the money laundering activities of the Organization, Rodriguez, through his real estate business, purchased, renovated, and sold residential properties in Las Vegas at the direction of Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez. Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez funded these transactions with drug dollars, and held his interest through a shell corporation, Innova Properties LLC (“Innova”). During the first half of 2016, Rodriguez “flipped” at least three properties in this way for Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez; the last of these was purchased by Innova for approximately $220,000 and then sold two months later for approximately $226,000.
In or about October 2015, Rodriguez assisted Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez in recruiting individuals to allow their identities to be used by the Organization: these individuals were listed with the state of Nevada as “managers” of various Organization-controlled shell corporations, and appeared as signatories on domestic bank accounts affiliated with those shell corporations. In exchange for the use of their identities, these individuals each received $1,000 per month in cash. These accounts were then utilized by the Organization for the movement of hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds.
In July 2016, after the raid of an Organization stash house by law enforcement in Philadelphia, which resulted in the seizure of $500,000 in narcotics proceeds, Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez traveled from Monterrey, Mexico, to Las Vegas to meet with a purported associate to discuss the seizure. In fact, that associate was an undercover DEA agent, and Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez was arrested when he arrived for the meeting. Rodriguez accompanied Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez to the meeting to discuss the seizure.
Rodriguez faces up to 20 years in prison on the charges contained in the criminal complaint.
Mr. Berman praised the DEA for its work in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Noah Falk and Jonathan E. Rebold are in charge of the prosecution.