Former Bank of America employee pleads guilty for his role in drug conspiracy linked to a Mexican drug cartel
BUFFALO, N.Y. – DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced today that Presiliano Garcia, 33, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford to misprision of a felony. The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated between 2012 and March 2016, the defendant, a personal banker at Bank of America, opened approximately 36 bank accounts that were utilized by co-defendants Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar, Gerardo Ballardo, Enrique Munoz, Max Riestra, Bryant Hudson, and others, to structure deposits to funnel money from places around the United States, including Buffalo, to accounts based in California. A total of $8,359,223, composed of approximately 1,092 cash-in deposits, mostly structured between $8,000 and $9,990 and made in 15 different states, were funneled into these accounts opened by Garcia.
Approximately 205 suspect customers were identified by Bank of America as potentially linked to the defendant. Many of the suspect customers had similar naming conventions or even the same name with slight variations in spelling, last name orientation, date of birth, social security number, or domicile. Garcia knew that a structuring felony was being committed by these individuals but did not file any suspicious activity reports relating to these transactions or notify federal law enforcement of the structuring activity in order to conceal the activities of the co-defendants.
Garcia is one of seven defendants allegedly involved in an illegal narcotics operation stretching from Sinaloa, Mexico, to Western New York. Law enforcement officers began investigating a sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Los Angeles, Calif., area in 2014. The organization shipped drug packages to various states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Colorado.
To date, five of the seven defendants have been convicted in this case. Defendants Max Riestra and Gerardo Ballardo are scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 22, 2019. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Today’s plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the DEA Buffalo Resident Office; Homeland Security Investigations; and the Internal Revenue Service. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, Calif., and Bank of America.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 3, 2019, before Judge Wolford.
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