South Florida Electronics Exporter Pleads Guilty To Laundering Narcotics Proceeds Through The Black Market Peso Exchange

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that earlier today, MARCELO IRIGOIN pled guilty to money laundering in connection with transactions involving his electronics export company.  As part of the scheme, IRIGOIN moved over $1.4 million in narcotics proceeds through the Black Market Peso Exchange, a sophisticated market in which narcotics proceeds are bought and sold by money-launderers and then transferred overseas through shell companies and mirrored transactions.  After IRIGION learned that he was the subject of a Government investigation, he provided falsified records to law enforcement in order to conceal his laundering activities from Government.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “Marcelo Irigoin not only helped launder over one million dollars in drug proceeds through the Black Market Peso Exchange, he also tried to cover his tracks after he learned about the Government’s investigation.  The Black Market Peso Exchange relies on so-called clean money from businesses like Irigoin’s to launder drug proceeds back to cartels overseas.  Today’s guilty plea reflects this Office’s commitment to investigate and prosecute businesses and individuals who make their seemingly legitimate businesses available to facilitate these illegal transactions.”

According to the allegations in the Information and statements made during the plea and other proceedings in the case:

Beginning in June 2020, MARCELO IRIGOIN received narcotics proceeds into accounts held by his company (“Company-1”), an electronics exporter based in Doral, Florida, as payments for electronics on behalf of a particular Company-1 customer (“Customer-1”).  These payments were all made by third parties with no connection Customer-1.  Additionally, these payments contained significant red flags consistent with money-laundering activity, including payment amounts that did not correspond to the actual electronics Customer-1 had purchased, as well as payments broken up into multiple smaller wire transfers over the course of a single day or several days.  IRIGOIN regularly communicated with the owner of Customer-1 (“CC-1”) and they discussed, among other things, the fact that CC-1 did not know in advance which third party would be sending money to Company-1 on behalf of Customer-1 for any given transaction.

These third parties were in fact shell companies that collected narcotics proceeds in the United States and sent them to Company-1 on behalf of Customer-1.  Once the money was sent to Company-1, Customer-1 would release an equivalent amount of proceeds to the drug trafficking organizations, minus a commission for the money-laundering brokers.  This system, known as the Black Market Peso Exchange (“BMPE”), allowed the drug traffickers to collect their narcotics proceeds in their home country without ever actually sending money in cross-border transactions from the United States. 

In May 2020, the DEA served a subpoena on Company-1 for records relating to its transactions with these BMPE entities.  In responding to this subpoena, IRIGOIN provided false information meant to give the impression that these BMPE entities were actually Company-1 customers, when they were in fact only making payments to Company-1 on behalf of Customer-1.  Additionally, IRIGOIN secretly told CC-1 to stop sending payments to Company-1, which was under Government investigation, and instead set up a separate bank account that he used to receive payments from BMPE entities on behalf of Customer-1.

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As part of his guilty plea, IRIGOIN, 41, of Hialeah, Florida, agreed to forfeit $1,436,171.60 to the United States, including over $600,000 the Government had previously seized from various company bank accounts.  IRIGOIN pled guilty today to one count of money laundering.  This offense carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. 

The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as IRIGOIN’s sentence will be determined by the judge. 

IRIGOIN is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty on September 13, 2022.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Special Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration.  

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Emily Deininger and Sheb Swett are in charge of the prosecution.