September 3, 2021Nogales, AZ, United StatesFinancial Crimes
TUCSON, Ariz. – A Nogales man was sentenced Sept. 1 to 30 months in prison for money laundering following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted by the IRS.
Carlos Antonio Vasquez, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James A. Soto. On April 19, Vasquez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering after his arrest on Sept. 24, 2019.
“The defendant in this case thought he could hide from justice,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix. “We take our role as financial investigators very seriously because we realize that investigating financial crime is vital to maintaining trust in our economy, and because of the unique investigative authorities of HSI, along with our partners at the IRS, he will now be held accountable for his crimes.”
Between February 2017 and August 2019, Vasquez, while branch manager at a bank in Rio Rico, Arizona, conspired to launder money for a group of individuals to conceal the illegal source of the funds. As part of this conspiracy, the money laundering organization brought Mexican citizens into the bank and Vasquez set up accounts for them for the purpose of sending illegal funds back to Mexico. Once the bank accounts were established, the money laundering organization openly handed cash to the Mexican citizens for deposit into the funnel accounts. The Mexican citizens then wired the funds into Mexican bank accounts under the direction of the money laundering organization.
Vasquez admitted that these funnel bank accounts enabled him and his branch to appear to have attracted new customers for the bank, improving the bank’s sales performance. Vasquez also admitted to knowing that the head of the money laundering organization was a former customer of the bank and that the funds moving through the accounts were proceeds of unlawful conduct. Vasquez personally authorized 42 wire transfers out of the funnel accounts to bank accounts in Mexico in the amount of $357,883. Over the course of the conspiracy, the money laundering organization allegedly moved over $10 million dollars in drug proceeds through the bank.
Elizabeth S. Boison and Margaret Moeser, U.S. Department of Justice, Bank Integrity Unit, and Mary Sue Feldmeier, Wallace H. Kleindienst, and Robert A. Fellrath, United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.
HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.