SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Wells Fargo personal banker accused of involvement in a Tijuana-based international money laundering organization that operated primarily in San Diego made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court today after his arrest Wednesday.
The apprehension of 30-year-old Luis Fernando Figueroa marks the latest in a string of indictments and arrests tied to the money laundering organization, federal authorities said.
Figueroa, of Tijuana, is charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Between January and March of this year, seven leaders of the organization were charged and arrested in San Diego. To date, five of the charged leaders have pleaded guilty.
According to the indictment and other public records, the organization laundered approximately $19.6 million in narcotics proceeds on behalf of Mexican-based drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel, between 2014 and 2016.
Prosecutors said the money laundering organization recruited individuals to serve as "funnel account holders" and open personal bank accounts at Wells Fargo Bank and other banking institutions.
Other members of the money laundering organization, known as "couriers," traveled to San Diego, Los Angeles, the East Coast and other U.S. cities, where they picked up and transported amounts of bulk cash ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds.
Money was deposited in funnel bank accounts controlled by the money laundering organization and maintained at Wells Fargo and other financial institutions. Subsequently, the funds were transferred to a series of Mexico-based shell companies operated by the money laundering organization. Once in Mexico, the funds were transferred to members of the Sinaloa Cartel.