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News Release [printer friendly page]
December 8, 2005
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Number: 202-307-7977

DEA Dismantles Large International
Drug and Money Laundering Organization

2,107 kilograms of cocaine, 518 pounds of marijuana, and over $7 million seized

DEC 8 --WASHINGTON, DC – A significant drug trafficking and money laundering organization that operated in the United States and five other countries has been stopped in its tracks, DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy announced today. Operation Cali Exchange resulted in 24 indictments and 18 arrests, and the seizure of over $7 million dollars, 2,107 kilograms of cocaine, and 518 pounds of marijuana. Operation Cali Exchange marks the third round of success in DEA’s “Money Trail Initiative,” an innovative financial crime strategy that attacks the financing of the illegal drug trade in order to dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. To date, DEA’s “Money Trail Initiative” has resulted in the seizure of $43.6 million US dollars.

Operation Cali Exchange targeted a drug distribution and money laundering organization that operated networks in the United States, Colombia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and the Bahamas. This organization utilized various methods such as bulk cash deliveries, wire transfers, and use of the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE) to launder drug proceeds in Miami, New York, and Chicago and return drug profits to the drug suppliers based in Colombia. The investigation has revealed that 28 different bank accounts in the United States and abroad were utilized to launder drug proceeds, and that over $10.2 million dollars was laundered through the U.S. banking system.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida is prosecuting the case. Charges in the indictment include conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, importation of a controlled substance, money laundering, and criminal forfeiture.

“Drug traffickers are using their profits to burrow into our neighborhoods and corrupt legitimate banking systems,” said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy. “In major drug trafficking operations, money is the thread that unravels the drugs and devastation otherwise hidden by dealers. DEA knows where money leads, and we will be relentless in going after it.”

During the course of this investigation, DEA agents and their international partners discovered that this organization coordinated and provided maritime transportation of drugs and money through the Caribbean corridor. One defendant, Eric Gardiner, led the Panama-based operation, and was arrested Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. According to the charges in the indictment, Gardiner funneled a large quantity of currency through the U.S. banking system into bank accounts in Panama. Other members of the organization arrested in the Dominican Republic include Rogelio Griffith, a Panamanian national, and Tyrone Russell of the Bahamas. Gardiner is also a Bahamian national. These three defendants will be immediately sent to Miami to face U.S. prosecution.

Other members of the criminal organization funneled money back to Colombia through either bulk cash deliveries or wire transfers associated with the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE). (The BMPE is a system where drug traffickers sell U.S. drug proceeds to brokers for pesos. Brokers then sell the drug proceeds to Colombian importers who purchase goods in the United States and elsewhere. By purchasing the U.S. dollars on the BMPE and not through Colombia’s regulated exchange system, the importers avoid Colombian taxes and tariffs, gaining significant profit, and a competitive advantage over those who import legally)

Other defendants in the investigation included Colombian national Jose Ignacio Lopez, and Dewey Davis, an American from Miami. Davis is a Gardiner associate who also laundered drug proceeds and trafficked cocaine in Miami for the organization. Lopez and Davis were among those arrested in Miami.

Restraining orders have been executed on 28 domestic bank accounts, and three Miami residences, eight vehicles, one boat, and one motorcycle have been seized pending forfeiture proceedings as part of Operation Cali Exchange.

“This investigation and prosecution strikes at the heart of this international drug organization and is aimed at dismantling the entire drug trafficking organization, from top to bottom,” said United States Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida.  “The Indictment disrupts every aspect of this drug trafficking network, bringing to justice those responsible for producing the cocaine in South America, those who imported it and sold it in the United States, those who funded and profited from the drug trade, and those who delivered the money back to the drug dealers.”

DEA offices in Chicago, Miami, New York, Bogotá, Cartegena, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama City participated in this case. The IRS Task Force in Miami, Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Broward County (FL) Sheriff’s Office, the Royal Bahamian Police Force, and the Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control participated with DEA Miami in the investigation. The investigation was coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division.

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