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Los Zetas Money Launderers Head to Federal Prison

LAREDO, Texas– Josue Alejandro Salinas, 22, David Villarreal, 40, and Jose Vasquez, 44, have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation relating to the laundering of millions of drug proceeds by Los Zetas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Salinas, of Laredo, Villarreal, a Mexican National, and Vasquez, a Honduran National, each pleaded guilty May 1, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds.  

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo handed Villarreal an 97-month term of imprisonment, while Salinas and Vasquez will serve 84  and 87 months, respectively. All the sentences will be followed by three years of supervised release. The court also entered a final order of forfeiture for $1,949,000 from Vasquez, $1,485,435 for Villarreal and $1,198,060 for Salinas. 

OCDETF Operation El Chacal was initiated in 2010 and culminated in several indictments being returned in November 2011 in Laredo and San Antonio as well as Chicago, Ill. Agents had identified a Los Zetas cell leader of a significant money laundering organization based inNuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico who laundered drug proceeds for the Zeta drug trafficking organization. The investigation revealed the organization shipped multiple loads of cocaine fromMexico to major distribution centers in the United States such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Pa., and Dallas. 

The organization fronted the cocaine loads to distributors and, after the sale and distribution of the drugs, awaited the collection of drug proceeds and resulting payments. A co-conspirator based in Chicago distributed the cocaine and collected the proceeds, while co-conspirators in Dallas and Chicago collected, stored and prepared the drug proceeds for transportation to Laredo and Eagle Pass and then to into Mexico. 

During the course of the investigation, a total of approximately $21 million was seized from various tractor trailer drivers, other couriers and stash homes in the Texas and Illinois which was destined to be transported into Mexico for delivery to the Zeta drug trafficking organization. 

Vasquez, aka El Catracho, was identified as a truck driver who transported nearly $2 million in bulk cash drug proceeds from the Chicago area to another co-conspirator in San Antonio who would then transport the money into Mexico. Agents seized the money before it was taken into Mexico.  

Villarreal and Salinas were couriers based in Laredo whose roles were to transport drug proceeds delivered in Laredo to Mexico. Villarreal was arrested on March 17, 2010, before he transported money to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Again, nearly $2 million was seized. On June 8, 2010, agents attempted a traffic stop on Salinas, but he refused and a police chase ensued. Salinas ultimately drove through a public fence into the Rio Grande River and swam toMexico. Agents pulled the vehicle out of the river and discovered two black duffel bags containing 40 bundles of drug proceeds totaling more than $1 million. Salinas was later apprehended by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

Others charged and convicted in this case, including Nelson Adrian Casarez, 35, and Miguel Santos, 42, both of Laredo, are awaiting sentencing in October 2012.  

The case was investigated by Agents of the DEA and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Mary Lou Castillo is prosecuting the case.



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