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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOJ Announces Racketeering Indictment Alleging Money Laundering Schemes

Anti-Corruption DOJ RICO

Financial Crimes

On December 10, the DOJ announced three unsealed indictments of a total of 20 defendants in connection with various money laundering schemes. Fifteen of the defendants were arrested and taken into custody, while the remaining individuals are still being sought by authorities.

The first indictment alleges that the former president and CEO of an Orange County, California bank and five other individuals, as members of a narcotics trafficking and international money laundering organization, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by participating in schemes to launder drug proceeds. According to the DOJ, the former bank official used his position, insider knowledge, and connections to “promote and facilitate money laundering transactions involving members and associates of the enterprise.” The DOJ alleges that the six defendants (i) arranged to convert purported drug proceeds, in the form of cash provided by an undercover informant, into cashier’s checks made out to a company the informant claimed to own; (ii) proposed to an informant that the informant and his boss purchase a controlling interest in the Orange County bank to more easily facilitate money laundering operations; and (iii) proposed to set up a foundation in Liechtenstein to be used, in part, to launder the informant’s drug sale proceeds. The DOJ also asserts that the bank official introduced the five other defendants to operatives of a drug cartel aspiring to launder millions of dollars monthly and discussed plans to purchase the bank with the drug cartel operatives. In addition to the RICO count, the indictment charges a total of 16 defendants with 27 additional counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, structuring transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements, and evidence tampering.

The two additional unsealed indictments charge a total of four defendants with conspiring to launder money they believed to be proceeds from narcotics trafficking.