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Top Money Launderer for the Sinaloa Cartel Sentenced to More than 15 Years in Prison

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

Assistant U. S. Attorney Daniel E. Zipp (619) 546-8463

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 7, 2022

SAN DIEGO – Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza, a high-level money launderer for the Sinaloa Cartel, was sentenced to 188 months in prison today for his role in a conspiracy to transfer millions of dollars in drug proceeds out of the United States.

According to court records, starting in 2013, agents with Homeland Security Investigations intercepted the communications of Alvarez-Inzunza and other high-level Sinaloa Cartel members as they discussed the transfer of drug proceeds. Alvarez-Inzunza, who had a law degree and worked as an attorney in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, regularly received requests originating from the top leadership of the cartel—including Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman—to arrange for the collection of drug proceeds in cities across the United States including New York, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.  Alvarez-Inzunza then worked with associates in Bogota, Colombia to arrange for the transfer of those funds to Mexico, Central America, and other locations.


Using information from wire intercepts, agents were able to seize over $4 million in bulk currency drug proceeds before they could leave the country, and intercepts showed Alvarez-Inzunza orchestrating the transfer of millions more on behalf of the cartel. Alvarez-Inzunza was arrested by Mexican authorities while traveling in the state of Oaxaca in March of 2016, and he was extradited to the United States last year. On May 3, 2022, He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1956(h).

In court today, Chief Judge Dana M. Sabraw noted that the Sinaloa cartel is “a very violent organization” and “they don’t exist without money.” Money laundering operations, like that headed by Alvarez-Inzunza, are “integral” to the operation of the cartel and provide the “fuel that keeps these organizations in business.”

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U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, “Large-scale drug cartels in Mexico can only survive by manipulating the international financial system to transfer the proceeds of their drug sales out of the United States.  Today’s sentence sends a message to global money launderers that they are not safe, wherever they may reside, and we will continue to work with our international partiers to bring them to justice.”  Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.

“Today’s sentencing is the result of relentless work by HSI targeting the Sinaloa Cartel,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of HSI Diego. “This multiyear investigation highlights HSI’s unwavering commitment to pursue cartel members responsible for importing dangerous drugs into our neighborhoods. This lengthy sentence serves as resounding message that transnational criminal organizations are being continuously investigated by HSI and their leaders will be brought to justice.”


This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 14CR2253-DMS                               

Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza                        Age: 41                                   Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico

SUMMARY OF CHARGES


Money Laundering Conspiracy – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1956(h)

AGENCIES

Homeland Security Investigations

Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control


Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs