Mexican Cartel and Chinese Bankers Accused of Massive Laundering Scheme

( – Members of a Mexican cartel have allegedly been working with underground bankers in China to launder money in America from drugs, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) just arrested many involved in the operation.

On Tuesday, June 18th, the DOJ announced the arrests after unsealing documents related to “Operation Fortune Runner,” a multi-year investigation into the underground money laundering scheme between Chinese bankers and members of the Sinaloa Cartel. The unsealed investigation superseded the indictment of 24 individuals associated with the laundering scheme, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on April 4th, 2024.

According to the DOJ Office of Public Affairs press release, 20 of the 24 defendants are scheduled for arraignment in the Los Angeles-based U.S. District Court “in the coming weeks” for their connection with the scheme. Investigators said underground Chinese bankers were involved in the criminal operation by laundering drug money back to Mexico and into the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The press release says that the drug traffickers “partnered” with the Chinese money exchanges in order to “take advantage of” the demand for U.S. currency from Chinese nationals. The money is transferred within China and used by Mexican organizations and businesses to purchase products and materials that help the cartel manufacture and traffic illegal narcotics, including the precursor chemicals used to create fentanyl.

All of the defendants in the case were charged with a single count of conspiring “to aid and abet” the selling of methamphetamine and cocaine, a single count of conspiring to launder money, and a single count of conspiring to “operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.”

The suspects who fled the U.S. were apprehended with the cooperation of the Chinese and Mexican governments. The press release also said that the Sinaloa Cartel is “largely responsible” for the spike in fentanyl smuggling into the U.S. over the last eight years. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that over 107,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses throughout 2021 and 2022, and 66.5% of those overdoses involved synthetically made opioids like fentanyl.

Law enforcement seized pounds and pounds of the drug, along with other narcotics like cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, as well as firearms and ammunition during their investigation. They also seized about $5 million in drug money.

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