Chinese citizens used U.S. banks to launder millions of dollars in Sinaloa Cartel drug profits

Tao Liu admitted to supporting money laundering in Mexican cartels and attempting to bribe US officials.

Tao Liu admitted to supporting money laundering in Mexican cartels and attempting to bribe US officials.

A Hong Kong businessman who helped cartel drug money laundering flew to Guam in October to pick up a fake US passport.

Instead, he got a private jet escort to neighboring Virginia by a federal agent.

Venture capitalist Taoriu, dressed as Santa Claus for the underprivileged in New York, tried to bribe civil servants to get a passport and money for drug traffickers, including Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa Cartel. We are waiting for a ruling for laundering.

Liu was part of an extensive network of Chinese citizens accused of hiding the true origin of more than $ 30 million from the sale of cocaine, primarily dating back to 2008.

A senior U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official urged not to be nominated to protect the confidentiality of work, Chinese businessmen play a key role in the most deadly drug crisis and various favorable money laundering plans In the history of the United States, he said he had long supported the Mexican cartel.

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According to the DEA, the number of such partnerships designed to move and clean drug benefits has increased recently. 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.. Large-scale incidents involving Liu show that agents are increasingly targeting money laundering networks and trying to neutralize dragling by cutting off cash supplies.

“Amazing” operation

Liu was stunned when a DEA special agent arrested him in Guam in October.

“It’s amazing to know that the government will take you abroad,” said Liu’s lawyer, Jonathan Sims. “I have never put a private jet on anyone. It was convenient for them to cross-examine him on their way here.”

Tao Liu, dressed as Santa at a charity event in New York, was found guilty of money laundering and bribery of US officials.

Tao Liu, dressed as Santa at a charity event in New York, pleaded guilty to money laundering and bribery of US officials.

Liu, the four fathers, discussed the incident with an agent on a plane and eventually thought in April that he was a corrupt official of the State Department, but in reality someone who is a secret DEA agent. Granted a bribe by offering $ 150,000 for each fake passport.

He intended to bribe with wire transfers and cryptocurrencies. Liu lived in Hong Kong but frequently traveled to the United States and Mexico. Other Chinese businessmen have moved to the United States, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico to build elaborate networks to implement some sophisticated money laundering schemes.

Wendy Woolcock, a special agent of the DEA Special Operations Executive, issued a statement in April after the three defendants were found guilty. It promotes their activities, floods our community with dangerous drugs, and causes devastating addiction and death. “

According to court records, the network has also been accused of being used solely by front companies in casinos and Guatemala to hide money and hiding drug money through US and foreign bank accounts.

According to lawyers familiar with the case, members of the money laundering network often drive or fly large amounts of cash, typically in increments of $ 300,000 to $ 350,000, to avoid depositing too much in the LA region. was.

They didn’t want to rent a cartel, so they hid an emergency cash bag in Mexico in case they lost their cargo in the United States due to police puncture wounds or double-crossing employees.

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Money Launderer was also able to use the profits of drugs to buy American and Chinese merchandise and send them to the Mexican cartel in demand.

Many court documents in the case remain sealed. But what’s available describes an elaborate black market peso scheme that uses a series of steps to eventually send drug profits back to the Mexican cartel in their home currency.

Business transactions were discussed in the encrypted mobile phone applications WhatsApp and WeChat, and one of the usernames was “SUPERKING99”.

According to Sims, Liu was around the money laundering network.

“I don’t think he understands the dangers and extent of drug activity,” Sims said.

“He needed access to American cash, and they needed RMB,” the Chinese currency known as RMB. So Liu went along with the plan, but felt safer not to ask who was calling the shot, his lawyer said.

XizhiLi, a drug trafficker, has been charged with money laundering.

XizhiLi, a drug trafficker, has been charged with money laundering.

Suspicion of relationship with El Chapo

Prosecutors allege that 45-year-old Xizhi Li, who lived in Mexico, had a direct relationship with El Chapo, the infamous former chief of the Sinaloa Cartel, and played a more important role in the crime. I will.

Lee also claimed in the indictment that he had “established a close relationship” with drug organizations in Colombia and Guatemala.

Lee passes by the “Z” and maintains his innocence on charges of money laundering and a plot to transport more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.

During the investigation, Lee abandoned the restaurant in Los Angeles and moved to Guatemala. He opened a casino. Prosecutors claim it was used for money laundering of drugs in Guatemala City.

Investigators targeting a large drug trafficker in Memphis, Tennessee, came across a connection between the cocaine-supplied Sinaloa Cartel and Xizhi Li, who allegedly helped with the money laundering benefits from its sale.

In 2018, a Miami investigator named one of his 13 aliases, “Franco Ley Tan,” from a bank account claimed to be owned by Xizhi Li, according to a DEA Task Force officer’s affidavit. Used to seize over $ 617,000.

The Memphis DEA agent managed the money as part of the investigation. Lee refused to get the money back, so a federal judge last year ruled a default to release the money to the government.

The prosecution on behalf of Lee and the defendant’s lawyer, John Kiyonaga, declined to comment before the trial.

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While Lee ran a restaurant in Los Angeles, he became friends with California businessman Eric Young-woo, 43. Mr. Wu has been acquitted of money laundering and both will be brought to trial in August.

Wu’s leading lawyer, Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., said his client had moved from China to the west coast of the United States and had a legitimate business of importing and exporting goods from his hometown, Louisville Courier Journal. Told to.

“Mr. Wu knew nothing about drug activity,” Jenkins said. Wu was used. “

Jenkins claims that Lee used the alias to make friends with Wu. Lee said the restaurant was heading for bankruptcy, and Wu agreed to have a friend open a bank account in his name to protect business assets from creditors, lawyers said. ..

The prosecution said the account was actually used to raise money for drugs, and according to their motion to convince the judge that Wu was a flight risk and should be imprisoned until trial. Has “overwhelming evidence” against.

They say Wu’s photo found a draft of a passport application with a different name.

The prosecution also cited concerns about the history of Wu’s overseas travel to Mexico. Suriname, South America; China and other places.

Wu demanded that he stay with his parents in the Los Angeles area until the end of the trial and offered to wear an ankle monitor. However, prosecutors claimed that Wu’s parents were in their 70s, did not speak English, and could not stop their son from escaping.

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He remains in prison in Warsaw, Virginia until trial.

Liu from Brooklyn, New York and his accomplice Jay Yu Chen. Jin Yuen Lee of San Gabriel, California. He admitted that he had attempted money laundering when he was found guilty in April.

If sentenced in July by the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, each can be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison. Others are mostly or awaiting trial.

49-year-old Jingyuan Li admitted that he organized a lump sum cash shipment of drug profits in the United States. We also used Shuoyu USA Inc., a California-based seafood import and export business, to purchase products and ship them to China and Hong Kong for sale. The profits were sent to Mexico to repay the cartel.

Prosecutors say Jin Yuen Lee, born in China, often spent time in San Gabriel, Mexico and California, washing at least $ 3.8 million.

The agent was unable to find Jianxing Chen, 40, a third defendant who was charged with money laundering but was a fugitive. He was born in China and lives in Belize. Prosecutors allege that he had traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Cancun, Guatemala City, etc. to assist in money laundering and had a business interest in Lee’s casino.

Simms called the scope of this network “a large, probably the largest and most complex case of money laundering I’ve seen.”

“The layers go on and on.”

Reporter Beth Warren: [email protected]; 502-582-7164; Twitter @ BethWarren CJ.

This article was originally published in the Louisville Courier Journal: DEA defeats money laundering ring linked to Sinaloa Cartel’s El Chapo