NEWARK, N.J. – The leader of an international money laundering organization in the Dominican Republic was arraigned in New Jersey today after being extradited to the United States, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Luis Velazquez-Cordero (a/k/a “El Pequeño”), 35, of the Dominican Republic, is charged by indictment with five counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in laundering millions in illegal cash drug proceeds. The indictment includes a forfeiture money judgment for $80 million, representing a portion of the property involved in the money laundering scheme. Velazquez-Cordero was arrested in the Dominican Republic on July 28, 2020, and extradited to the United States. He was arraigned today by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Katherine Hayden.
Eight other defendants have been charged in New Jersey federal court with money laundering and other charges related to the same international conspiracy.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From August 2016 through July 2020, Velazquez-Cordero directed conspirators operating in New Jersey, New York, and Florida to pick up millions in cash drug proceeds from drug trafficking organizations operating in the U.S. and exchange the cash for cashier’s checks at U.S. banks. Velazquez-Cordero provided the amount of each check, the payee, and the bank accounts into which the checks should be deposited. The checks were then deposited into the payee accounts, many of which were controlled by shell corporations and used exclusively as a means to facilitate laundering illegal drug proceeds. The scheme was designed to conceal the nature, source, ownership, and control of the illegal drug proceeds in order to avoid scrutiny by law enforcement and banking institutions, and allegedly resulted in $80 million in cash from illegal drug sales being transferred back to drug trafficking organizations in other countries.
Each count of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the amount involved in the offense, whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson, as well as the DEA Special Operations Division; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez; officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Troy Miller, New York Field Office; the Morristown, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Acting Chief Darnell Richardson; the Clifton, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Acting Chief Tom Rinaldi; the Passaic, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Luis A. Guzman; the New York City Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Dermot Shea; the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, under the direction of Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan; the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes; and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Mark Musella, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. He also thanked the Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas of the Dominican Republic (the National Directorate of Drug Control) and its President, Admiral José Manuel Cabrera Ulloa; the U.S. State Department and DOJ Office of International Affairs, for their assistance in the investigation.
This case is being conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan M. Peck of Asset Recovery & Money Laundering Unit of the Criminal Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.