Drug trafficking leader sentenced to 40 years
By Associated Press
Originally published: Aug 14, 2013 - 3:12 pm
PHOENIX -- The Mexican national who was a leader of a drug trafficking ring that operated in the Phoenix area has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Artemio Pena-Torrecillas of Sinaloa was sentenced earlier this week. He was found guilty in May of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, conspiracy to commit money laundering and other charges.
Federal prosecutors say Pena-Torrecillas and Cruz Ortega-Ruano led the Phoenix-based ring. They were accused of trafficking exceptionally pure methamphetamine.
Prosecutors say Pena-Torrecillas was responsible for obtaining the meth, hiring drug couriers to drive vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport the drugs and distributing the drugs to customers.
Ortega-Ruano and others charged in the case pleaded guilty and have been sentenced.
Note: Many U.S. citizens live on the Sonora side of the border. Story first came out of Douglas few weeks ago.
Some AZ corrections officers in money laundering case live in Mexico.
Posted: Aug 13, 2013 5:40 PM MST
Updated: Aug 14, 2013 10:35 AM MST
By Pat McReynolds - bio | email
A policy allowing people who aren't living in this country and aren't U.S. citizens to work in Arizona prisons may have helped some corrections officers launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for the drug cartels, and chances are they will never be punished for it.
5 AZ corrections officers accused of money laundering
Five Arizona Department of Corrections officers at the prison in Douglas have been accused of laundering money by funneling it into Mexico.
The Department of Corrections officers are surrounded by criminals every day, including cartel and mafia members from south of the border.
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Last week, five Arizona Department of Corrections officers at the prison in Douglas were accused of laundering money by funneling it into Mexico. Three of the officers resigned July 24. They were identified as Jesus Andrade, Laura Pedroza and Anna Saiz.
For more than 20 years, Phoenix police Lt. Vince Piano has investigated the funding of organized crime.
In fact, he confirmed to CBS 5 News that some of the corrections officers his task force has accused of money laundering live in Mexico, and because of that, they might never be punished or even charged.
Cartels are paying people to open bank accounts on the Arizona side of the border, but the cartel has the account numbers and the control, investigators told CBS 5 News. Then dozens of runners and lookouts, stuff bags full of criminal cash, and get in line at the border.
They are so brazen, they even declare the money to customs officials, and because U.S. banks are more lax than those in Mexico, the runners deposit the cash into the phantom accounts, convert it into pesos and wire it right back to Mexican banks, Piano said.
Piano said he catches the runners all the time, but most prosecutors tell him to give back the cash and let the suspect go, he said. Money laundering in and of itself isn't a big enough crime to prompt arrest or extradition.
Millions of dollars flood across the border weekly that is directly related to violence and drugs, and current laws just let it happen in plain sight, Piano said.
Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was particularly disturbed by the recently accused corrections officers who were allowed to live across the border.
Cartels watch the money laundering suspects, with unlimited cash for bribes, or worse, no hesitation for threats, investigators said.
Officials with the Department of Corrections were quick to point out that any money laundering its corrections officers may have done happened outside of the prison facility.
As far as the state detention officers being allowed to be foreign nationals, some even living in Mexico, the Arizona Department of Corrections is currently standing by its hiring practices.
Money laundering investigation continues
By Trisha Maldonado
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:05 AM MDT
As the investigation of the money laundering scheme involving five Arizona Department of Corrections Officers continues, officials state 17 non ADOC employees are also being investigated.
Last month three out of five officers resigned, and the other two are being investigated internally after an investigation by the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force believed the five ADOC employees to be involved in a money laundering scheme funneling money into Mexico.
The scheme was identified along the southwestern border where criminal organizations associated with drug cartel member were recruiting people to use their personal U.S. bank accounts to funnel illegal proceeds into Mexico, which violates state and federal laws, said Lieutenant Vince Piano of the task force.
"We investigate thousands of bank accounts with this type of activity," Lt. Piano said.
Task for investigators from the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Phoenix Police Department are conducting the investigation.
No arrest or charges have been made, and names have not been released.