Former Employee of San Francisco Money Services Business Charged with Conspiring to Launder Drug Proceeds
Defendant Was Wiring Money Abroad for Known Tenderloin Drug Trafficker
SAN FRANCISCO – The United States Attorney’s Office has charged Yessenia Margarita Barrientos-Lainez—a former employee of a money services business in the Tenderloin district—with conspiring to launder drug proceeds by wiring large sums of money abroad for a known drug trafficker in the San Francisco Bay Area, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), San Francisco Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Clark; and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Oakland Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Darren Lian. Barrientos made her initial federal court appearance on October 27 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson to face the charge against her.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Barrientos, 42, of Daly City, California, worked as a teller at a money services business located in San Francisco until mid-May 2023 and used her position there to launder the drug proceeds of an unnamed co-conspirator—a man who was known to DEA agents as a Bay Area drug trafficker and who was arrested in possession of narcotics on June 1, 2023, in Daly City—by wiring significant sums of cash to various foreign bank accounts, including some in Mexico, at the unnamed co-conspirator’s direction.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that, on May 1, 2023, when she was still working as a teller at the money services business, Barrientos sent her unnamed co-conspirator text messages saying that her boss had left and therefore that the unnamed co-conspirator could send her information and come drop off cash. The complaint also alleges that, in the approximately two hours that followed, (i) the unnamed co-conspirator sent Barrientos a text message containing a photograph depicting three handwritten names and bank account numbers; and (ii) Barrientos sent her unnamed co-conspirator several messages containing photographs of receipts showing thousands of dollars being wired to each of the three names and account numbers depicted in the photograph she had earlier received from her unnamed co-conspirator. The complaint further alleges that records received from the money services business confirm Barrientos processed each of the three transactions, and that each of the three recipient bank accounts was located in Mexico, including two in Sinaloa. And the complaint alleges that Barrientos charged her unnamed co-conspirator an “under-the-table fee” to process the three wires, each of which she structured to “evad[e] certain reporting requirements.”
Finally, the complaint alleges that there is other evidence of Barrientos’ money laundering activity. For example, the complaint alleges that surveillance footage from the money services business from April 25, 2023, shows Barrientos (i) walking outside to retrieve a white plastic bag from an unknown individual in a parked car; (ii) bringing the white plastic bag inside the money services business and placing it under her teller station; (iii) pulling large amounts of cash from the bag and running it through a money counting machine; (iv) processing wire transfers with no customers present at her teller window; and (v) using her cellphone to take photographs of the cash and receipts.
Barrientos was arrested on October 26, 2023, and was released on bond at her initial appearance the following day. Her next scheduled appearance is on November 2, 2023.
A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds, whichever is greater. As part of any sentence, the court also may order the defendant to pay restitution, if appropriate, and to serve an additional term of supervised release to begin after any prison sentence is complete. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas M. Parker is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA and IRS-CI.