El Chapo Sinaloa Cartel Money laundering
Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza. Photo credit: home.treasury.gov

A former attorney who laundered drug money for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced in San Diego federal court Friday to more than 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza, 41, coordinated the movement of millions of dollars in drug proceeds. Some of the money was used to fund cocaine shipments into the United States, according to a prosecutor’s sentencing memorandum, which identified Alvarez-Inzunza as the lead defendant in a long-running wiretap investigation into the cartel.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Alvarez-Inzunza was previously designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for laundering money for top cartel leaders, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

According to prosecutors, Alvarez-Inzunza arranged for couriers to pick up drug money in the United States and worked with others to transfer the funds to Mexico, Central America and other countries.

Messages between Alvarez-Inzunza and others were intercepted by federal agents, leading to cash seizures in New York, Boston and Detroit. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said agents intercepted more than $4 million before it could leave the United States.

Other intercepted messages tied him to drug purchases and the importation of narcotics into the country, according to prosecutors.

His defense attorney, Frederick Carroll, wrote in a sentencing brief that his client previously worked as a civil attorney in Mexico. A client that approached him for a legal matter worked for the cartel, the attorney wrote.

“A series of small decisions to work with these people ultimately resulted in a situation where he could not extricate himself from his newfound employ — a situation he deeply regrets now,” Carroll wrote.

Alvarez-Inzunza was indicted in 2015, arrested in Mexico the following year and remained in Mexican custody until last year, when he was extradited to the U.S.

After pleading guilty earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, a San Diego federal judge sentenced him Friday to 188 months in prison.



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Ellen Bullock