45 People Indicted for Fentanyl Sales and Money Laundering on Behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel

By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Southern District of Ohio has brought money-laundering and fentanyl distribution charges against 12 people in Cincinnati. Additionally, 40 people in San Diego, California have been charged, along with others in Columbus, Ohio, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Kansas and the Eastern District of Washington.

The DOJ reports that among those charged in California is Jose Lopez-Albarran, who they describe as a known money-laundering agent for the Sinaloa Cartel. The DOJ alleges “he and other members of the Cartel allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from the United States to Mexico between 2015 and 2018. Through the investigation in California, law enforcement discovered multiple drug-trafficking cells throughout the United States.”

The DOJ describes how an Ohio-based drug trafficking organization centered in Middletown allegedly sold fentanyl received from Mexico. The drugs would initially come into the United States in California and Arizona, and then drug mules would ferry the drugs to Southern Ohio.

According to the superseding indictment, undercover FBI agents were able to gain the trust of the organization by posing as members of a global criminal organization that had the ability to launder money from U.S. drug sales, and transfer the money to other countries, including Mexico.

The indictment identifies several U.S. communities that were the source of cartel drug proceeds, including Cincinnati Ohio, Kansas City Missouri, New York, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego, California, Lexington, Kentucky, and Chicago, Illinois.

A break in the case came August 12, 2017, when a pair of drug mules was stopped in Preble County, Ohio. The indictment describes how upon searching the vehicle, Ohio State Troopers found almost 3 kilos of fentanyl and almost 2 kilos of heroin, stashed in sealed packages hidden in the vehicle’s fuel tank.

Ben Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio offered a warning to cartel leaders during a press conference reported in Cinncinati.com; "Mexican cartel leaders who supply fentanyl and other opioids and other drugs to drug dealers here in the Southern District of Ohio should know they are not safe from our law enforcement efforts. They're in our sights. We will investigate them, we will charge them and we will bring them to justice. We're going to increase the cost of doing drug trafficking business for the cartels in Mexico."

FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force, FBI Cincinnati Division and FBI Cleveland Division, Cincinnati and Middletown police departments, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Warren County Drug Task Force, along with the coordination of Preble County Prosecutor Votel conducted the investigation into this case.

Assistant United States Attorney Karl P. Kadon, is prosecuting the Cincinnati case, and Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Prichard, is prosecuting the Columbus case.