San Diego, California - A man from Tijuana, Mexico pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to managing and supervising an “extensive” international money laundering organization that smuggled, from the United States to Mexico, through Southern California and elsewhere, under his direction, $13 million of narcotics proceeds.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. for the Southern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Dave Shaw of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Field Office, made the announcement.
Cesar Hernandez-Martinez, 29, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal. Hernandez-Martinez was extradited from Mexico to the United States in September 2018. The narcotics -- multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin – were smuggled into the United States from Mexico by a drug trafficking organization that Hernandez-Martinez acknowledged was a part of, or affiliated with, the Sinaloa Cartel. Through his plea agreement, Hernandez-Martinez admitted that, from approximately April 2013 until November 2015, he owned and operated currency exchange houses in Tijuana that received smuggled proceeds. Hernandez-Martinez further admitted to knowing that these smuggled proceeds were from narcotics trafficking activity in the United States. According to the plea agreement, Hernandez-Martinez also coordinated couriers involved in smuggling this currency from the United States to Mexico, ensuring that they picked up the currency from the correct sources who were primarily located in Southern California.
Hernandez-Martinez will be sentenced on July 8, 2019 before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez. Three other defendants previously entered guilty pleas in this case and have been sentenced including:
- Joel Acedo-Ojeda, 34, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering and was sentenced to serve 135 months in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine;
- Omar Ayon-Diaz, 40, of Tijuana, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering and was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison and was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine; and
- Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga, 31, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine and was sentenced to serve 132 months in prison and pay a $1,000 fine.
HSI San Diego conducted the investigation. Senior Trial Counsel Mark A. Irish of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence A. Casper of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.