Dozens charged with conspiring to launder drug cartel money

SAN DIEGO — Dozens of people across the U.S. have been charged in connection with an international conspiracy to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug money for Mexican cartels, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego unsealed 40 indictments against defendants accused in the scheme dating to 2015. Investigators seized more than $6 million in cash as well as weapons and large quantities of drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and marijuana, officials said.

Mexican-based brokers oversaw a network of "money movers" who transported drug proceeds throughout the U.S. in boxes and duffel bags and deposited the cash into so-called funnel bank accounts, according to prosecutors. From there the funds were wired to accounts for false companies in Mexico controlled by drug suppliers, including members of the Sinaloa cartel, they said.

"By following the money, we have discovered large quantities of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine that are no longer destined for the streets of America," U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. "That's a one-two punch that takes these organizations completely out of the ring and makes our communities safer."

Undercover agents witnessed cash deliveries that took place in parking lots of retail stores, hotels and restaurants in California, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A total of 75 people are charged in the U.S., with some accused of drug distribution, officials said.

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