Seven Individuals Sentenced to Prison in Multi-Million Dollar International Money Laundering Conspiracy
On May 30, 2018, Geannis Gonzalez, 31, formerly of Peyton, Colorado, Quiana Velasco, 35, of Miami, Jose Daniel Estrella, 38, of Hallandale, Pedro Reyes, 38, of Hialeah, Robinson Castillo, 32, of Pembroke Pines, and Jamie Vives Castillo, 41, of Pembroke Pines, were sentenced to federal prison for participating in a conspiracy to commit money laundering. Yesterday, conspirator Alfredo Tovar, 36, of Miami Gardens, was also sentenced to prison for his involvement in the criminal scheme. All seven defendants previously pled guilty for their involvement in the conspiracy, in March 2018.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
“The sentences announced today stem from a pernicious scheme that was breathtaking in scope,” stated United States Attorney Benjamin Greenberg. “Unfortunately, the life-blood of this devastating scheme was a steady stream of people who cast aside their respect for the law, in the pursuit of ‘easy money.’ As a result, vulnerable men and women throughout the country were stripped of their life savings. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to bring to justice those individuals who carry out, and recruit for, similar criminal enterprises.”
“Today’s sentencings punish the defendants for their thievery and greed,” said Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “So-called white collar crimes such as money laundering should not be taken lightly. In this case, there were over 400 victims, including retirees, who were scammed out of tens or hundreds of thousands of their hard-earned dollars. The FBI is continuously adapting our investigative techniques to bring these types of offenders to justice.”
According to stipulated facts filed in court, as well as facts presented at sentencing, the defendants opened bank accounts established in the names of shell corporations to receive the proceeds of various fraudulent schemes, including romance frauds, email hacking schemes, and inheritance and lottery scams, that victimized individuals and corporations across the United States. Once these bank accounts received money wired from a fraud victim, the defendants would wire the money to other accounts overseas. Victims of the fraud schemes included retirees and other individuals whom were defrauded of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, including retirement savings and money borrowed from friends and family members.
After banks closed the accounts that the defendants had opened, often on suspicion that the they were being used for fraud or other illegal activity, the defendants would recruit other individuals to act as “money mules,” establishing additional shell corporations in the money mules’ names. The defendants would then instruct the money mules to open new bank accounts throughout South Florida in the names of the new shell corporations. They would also instruct the mules to falsely represent to the banks that the shell corporations were legitimate businesses engaged in the import, export, or sale of various goods. Those accounts would similarly receive proceeds from the same sorts of fraudulent schemes, after which the defendants would instruct their recruits to further wire the money overseas. The defendants received repeated warnings and indications that the funds coming into the shell corporation bank accounts were the proceeds from illegal activity. The bank accounts that were utilized by the defendants and the mules they recruited, received between $3,381,110 to $7,177,442 in proceeds. As a result of their involvement with this scheme, the seven defendants would receive a small percentage of these funds as their commission. Overall, the conspiracy included the participation of dozens of individuals and laundered money was defrauded from more than 400 victims.
United States District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro imposed prison sentences upon all seven defendants, ranging from 108 months in prison for Pedro Reyes and 80 months in prison for Geannis Gonzalez, to 48 months in prison for Jose Estrella, Jamie Vives Castillo, and Robinson Castillo. Quiana Vealsco and Alfredo Tovar were each sentenced to 60 months in prison.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI in connection with this matter. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jared M. Strauss and Michael G. Walleisa.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of Florida