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News Release
October 1, 2004

Defendants Arrested In Money Laundering Operation

OCT 1--Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Thomas W. Raffanello, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, announced today that defendants, Javier Hidalgo and Adriana Suarez, were arrested on money laundering and related criminal charges. The two arrested defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance in federal court in Miami, Florida, on Monday, October 4, 2004.

The forty-nine (49) count Indictment charges Hidalgo and Adriana Suarez, as well as Luis Suarez, Adriana Suarez’s brother, with conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h), and money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). The Indictment also charges Luis Suarez with forty-five (45) counts of structuring currency transactions to avoid reporting requirements, in violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a), and Hidalgo with making a false official statement to Drug Enforcement Administration agents, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001(a)(2). If convicted on all the charges against them, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of forty (40) years’ imprisonment or more and forfeiture of approximately $1.2 million in laundered funds.

This case stems from an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration into the operations of the “Black Market Peso Exchange.” Commonly in this exchange, U.S. currency from the sale of narcotics is bought and sold by currency brokers in South America, who direct accomplices in the United States to distribute the currency to the brokers’ customers by depositing it into the customers’ U.S. bank accounts. As alleged in the Indictment, between February and August 2004, the defendants laundered over $1.2 million in drug proceeds, including approximately $340,000 seized by agents from Miami area bank accounts. Additionally, two face to face deliveries of drug proceeds, of about $20,000 each, one to Hidalgo and one to Adriana Suarez, were conducted in an undercover sting operation in August 2004. The entire criminal enterprise was directed by Luis Suarez, who remains a fugitive.

Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cameron Elliot.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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