LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BRUNO RAMIREZ was
convicted today, following a jury trial before United States
District Judge ROBERT P. PATTERSON, of conspiring to commit money
laundering and conspiring to traffic in narcotics.
The trial of RAMIREZ stemmed from the undercover
investigation dubbed “Operation Plata Sucia,” an Organized Crime
Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation led by the
United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New
York, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), the New York City
Police Department (“NYPD”), the Drug Enforcement Administration
(“DEA”), the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (“FBI”), the New York State Police (“NYSP”), and
the Suffolk County Police Department, as well as the Colombian
Departmento Administrativo De Seguridad (“DAS”).
The investigation culminated in the arrests of over 50 people,
including the October 2006 arrests of more than 30 individuals
the United States, Colombia, and the United Kingdom; the seizure
of more than $10 million in drug proceeds and more than $6.5
million worth of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana; and the issuance
of seizure warrants for bank accounts used to further the
money-laundering process at financial institutions throughout the
United States. According to documents filed in Manhattan federal
court and the evidence at trial:
RAMIREZ worked in the United States for a narcotics
organization that laundered its drug proceeds through the
Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange (the “BMPE”). The BMPE is
an informal currency exchange system in which one or more “peso
brokers” serve as middle-men between narcotics traffickers who
control massive quantities of drug money in the United States and
Colombian businesspeople seeking to purchase cheap U.S. dollars
outside the highly-regulated Colombian banking system.
The BMPE system involves three-steps.
traffickers sell their drug dollars in the United States to peso
brokers in Colombia in exchange for Colombian pesos. Second, the
peso brokers use criminal associates in the United States to
collect the drug money and deposit the illicit funds into the
United States banking system. Finally, the peso brokers sell the
drug dollars to Colombian businesspeople seeking cheap dollars
outside the legitimate Colombian banking system to purchase goods
to be imported back to Colombia. As the transactions in the BMPE
process are verbal, and therefore do not produce a paper trail,
the lack of apparent connection between the peso transactions in
Colombia and the dollar transactions outside of Colombia make it
difficult for international law enforcement to discover the
money-laundering crimes committed through this process. Because
of these inherent advantages, the BMPE system has become one of
the primary methods through which Colombian narcotics traffickers
launder their illicit funds.
As part of Operation Plata Sucia, law enforcement
targeted the BMPE system from top to bottom: from the peso
brokers in Colombia to their criminal associates in the United
States who collected the drug proceeds for placement into the
United States banking system, to the businesspeople who knowingly
acquired the cheap drug dollars to purchase goods to be imported
back to Colombia. The trial evidence showed that BRUNO RAMIREZ
personally delivered approximately $500,000 in narcotics proceeds
to be laundered as part of the BMPE system, and also delivered
more than 5 kilograms (approximately $100,000 worth) of cocaine
to be distributed in the New York City area.
RAMIREZ, 55, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in
prison on the conspiracy to commit money-laundering charge, and a
maximum sentence of 20 years on the conspiracy to distribute
cocaine charge. His sentencing is scheduled for February 19,
2008 at 4:00 p.m., before Judge PATTERSON.
Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the IRS,
the NYPD, the DEA, ICE, the FBI, the NYSP in this case.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s
International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant United States
Attorneys AMY FINZI, GLEN G. MCGORTY and JEFFREY A. BROWN are in
charge of the prosecution.