“Former Guatemalan President Pleads Not Guilty After Extradition”

May 29, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on May 28, 2013 released the following press release:

“Samuel Rubenfeld
Wall Street Journal

A former Guatemalan president was extradited last Friday to New York to face money laundering charges, the latest in the Justice Department’s heightened efforts to get defendants detained internationally to face corruption charges.

Alfonso Portillo,who led Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, embezzled tens of millions of dollars in state assets, some of which he laundered through U.S. and European bank accounts, prosecutors alleged Tuesday.

Portillo pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson. If convicted, Portillo faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

He has long denied the allegations against him, telling CNN en Español in January the charges are a political witch-hunt borne of his opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war.

“If deposits were made, they are deposits that first of all come from institutions that are not illicit,” he was quoted by CNN as saying. “In order for there to be laundering, the first requirement is that the money is from an illegal origin or comes from an illegal activity.”

Portillo’s extradition to the U.S. highlights a recently favored tool in corruption cases by law enforcement authorities, in which people are detained overseas and brought to the U.S. to face the charges against them.

The Justice Department built up its capacity and bolstered its relationships with foreign counterparts, allowing it to more frequently pursue cases and defendants internationally, said Peter Carr, a spokesman, in an email.

“The result is we are pursuing the extradition of more defendants, including high-profile defendants, such as [Viktor] Bout and Portillo,” Carr said.

However, the results of these efforts are somewhat mixed, based on a review of recent cases.

Bout was extradited and convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. His associate was extradited to New York last week.

In January, a U.K. businessman was extradited, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in El Paso, Texas, federal court to three years behind bars for trying to help ship missile parts to Iran.

And in April 2012, the leader of a Mexican drug cartel was brought to the U.S. to face racketeering and money-laundering charges, for which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

But prosecutors are struggling to bring a former Thai official to the U.S. to face money-laundering charges in a case that’s been stayed until March 2014, and their support to Bahamian authorities in another case still ended in failure.

In another case, prosecutors have been trying to extradite a South Korean man since 2009 to face U.S. foreign bribery charges, but court papers from the man’s lawyers say Seoul won’t do it because the people he’s accused of bribing aren’t considered public officials under local law.

Carr declined to comment on the Justice Department’s record of extradition.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. prosecutors indict alleged Sinaloa cartel figure

October 8, 2012

Chicago Tribune on October 4, 2012 released the following:

“Marty Graham | Reuters

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors have indicted a man they describe as an important member of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel who organized efforts to build two sophisticated smuggling tunnels under the U.S. border from Tijuana to San Diego.

Jose Sanchez-Villalobos, who is being held in a Mexican jail after his arrest in January on money-laundering charges, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in February. But prosecutors did not unseal the indictment until Wednesday.

Sanchez-Villalobos, 49, was indicted on 13 counts including conspiracy, building and financing tunnels, and smuggling marijuana through them. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Federal authorities charged Sanchez-Villalobos with leading the construction and use of two of the tunnels, discovered in 2010 and 2011, according to the indictment. The 2010 tunnel bust yielded more than 17 tons of marijuana, while authorities recovered about 26 tons connected to the 2011 tunnel, according to the indictment.

Officials from the Border Tunnel Task Force said the 2011 tunnel was the most sophisticated they had seen, with an elevator, ventilation, electrical wiring, and a rail and cart system to move the marijuana. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said the tunnel had cost at least $1 million to build.

Federal investigators from the task force have discovered four tunnels between Tijuana and San Diego since October 2010, ranging in length from 600 feet to nearly a half mile.

The tunnels descend more than 60 feet underground and travel under the border from residences and warehouses in Mexico to rented warehouses in the United States.

Tons of marijuana smuggled through the tunnels were transported farther into the United States by trucks.

Sanchez-Villalobos, whom prosecutors describe as the Sinaloa cartel’s regional manager for Baja, Jalisco and Tijuana, was actively involved in the tunnel construction, according to the indictment.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal Indictment Charges 15 Men from Albuquerque and Edgewood with Alleged Drug Trafficking and Financial Crimes

January 29, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 27, 2012 released the following:

“ALBUQUERQUE—A 29—count federal indictment charging 15 men from Albuquerque and Edgewood, N.M., with drug trafficking, money laundering, and currency structuring charges was unsealed late yesterday afternoon, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales; Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS).

The indictment is the result of a multi-agency investigation into a major drug trafficking and money laundering organization operating out of the Albuquerque metropolitan area that was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) program. OCDETF is a nationwide Department of Justice program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

Yesterday, a team of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested nine of the 15 defendants named in the indictment, and executed 10 search warrants at residences in Albuquerque and a ranch in Edgewood. Those arrested include Steve Chavez, 32, a fireman with the Albuquerque Fire Department. Two other defendants, Jesus Ramos Castillo, 29, and Gabriel Guerra-Gonzalez, 27, both Mexican nationals, are in state custody on pending local charges; they will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges in the indictment. The defendants arrested yesterday are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court in Albuquerque this morning.

Four defendants, Homero Varela, 29, Manuel Villa-Mayorquin, 23, and Procoro Noberto-Alvarez, 28, Mexican nationals, and Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., 25, of Edgewood, have yet to be arrested and are considered fugitives.

The indictment alleges that, between May 2011 and January 2012, all 15 defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Each defendant also is charged with using communication devices to facilitate drug trafficking crimes (sometimes referred to as “phone counts”), and Homero Varela is charged with distributing methamphetamine on three separate occasions over a three month period. The maximum penalties for a conviction on the conspiracy charge and each of the three methamphetamine distribution charges is a minimum 10 years’ to a maximum of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine, and the maximum penalty for a conviction on each of the phone counts is four years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also charges Homero Varela, Roy Madrid, 21, of Albuquerque, and Manuel Villa-Mayorquin with conspiracy to launder money. Homero Varela is further charged with an additional count of money laundering involving drug proceeds. A conviction on the money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment, and a conviction on the substantive money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., is charged with seven counts of structuring financial transactions to avoid certain reporting requirements for an aggregate of $166,300 through 24 transactions between April 2009 and August 2011. Steve Chavez is charged with structuring an aggregate of $348,500 in 37 transactions between July 1, 2011 and August 25, 2011. The maximum penalty for a conviction on each of these counts is five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of property constituting, or derived from proceeds obtained directly, or indirectly, from the defendants’ illegal drug trafficking and financial crimes, including three Albuquerque residences owned, occupied or in the possession of Homero Varela, Ramon Gonzalez, Sr., and Steve Chavez, respectively, and a ranch in Edgewood owned by Ramon Gonzalez, Sr. It also seeks forfeiture of funds in numerous bank accounts in the names of Homero Varela, Ramon Gonzales, Sr., Ramon Gonzalez, Jr., Andres Gonzalez and Steve Chavez, as well as a money judgment of at least $15,000,000, the amount of money allegedly derived or involved in the offenses alleged in the indictment.

During yesterday’s law enforcement operation, officers seized a half kilogram of cocaine, more than 10 pounds of high grade marijuana, approximately $25,000 in cash, 20 vehicles, seven handguns, nine rifles, and two shotguns.

In announcing yesterday’s arrests, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “The charges in this indictment are some of the most significant drug and money laundering charges ever filed in the District of New Mexico. The investigation that led to this indictment exemplifies the law enforcement cooperation that we are fortunate to experience here in New Mexico. Federal, state and local officers worked long and hard and side-by-side in a coordinated effort to arrest numerous individuals charged in the indictment. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone involved in the investigation. Their efforts have made our streets and communities much safer.”

“The Varela organization has been responsible for distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine in central and north central New Mexico,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arabit. “DEA and our federal, state, county, and municipal law enforcement partners have worked hand-in-hand to disrupt this organization from its roots, culminating in the indictment of 15 of its members of which 11 are in custody and the seizure of their drugs and assets, including 20 vehicles, 18 weapons, cash, and real property. Through these enforcement actions, we are making our communities safer.”

“These significant investigations and arrests would not have been possible without the joint efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, led by the DEA, the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Forces in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and numerous other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the region, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “We all share the same goal: stop criminal enterprises that profit from the illegal trade of dangerous drugs and take away any financial benefit they receive from their crimes. The Albuquerque FBI will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and community partners to rid our rural and urban areas of drug traffickers and other criminals and help make New Mexico and our nation a safer place to live.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Mertz stated, “This indictment once again reflects the successful merging of law enforcement personnel, who work together through the task force, providing their specific skills, with the common purpose of ferreting out potential nefarious narcotics and related financial crimes. IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to investigate those individuals who ignore the laws of our country for financial gain.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reeve Swainston and Samuel L. Hurtado, and was investigated by DEA, FBI, and IRS with support from the New Mexico State Police, the Albuquerque Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and the Corrales Police Department. Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Air Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Police Division, and the Region II HIDTA Task Force participated in yesterday’s law enforcement operation.

Charges in indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.