Los Angeles (dpa) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seized at least $65 million and arrested nine people in a series of raids related to money laundering in Los Angeles Wednesday, according to the US attorney’s office.
A Mexican drug cartel allegedly attempted to launder narcotics profits by using numerous businesses in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles to convert their vast earnings into pesos.
The businesses were suspected of taking bulk cash for clothing exported to Mexico, a scheme referred to as the Black Market Peso Exchange.
Los Angeles has become the epicentre of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses,” said Robert E Dugdale, assistant US attorney, in a statement.
About 1,000 officers conducted the sweeps at around 70 businesses, the statement said.
Operations that launder drug money through legitimate trade have risen since 2010 when Mexico restricted the use of American dollars, forcing the cartels to convert their dollars to pesos without tipping off authorities, the Los Angeles Times reported.