LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, and JOHN P. GILBRIDE, the Special
Agent-in-Charge of the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration (“DEA”), announced today the arrival in New York
from Canada of JUAN CARLOS ELLIS, GERARDO PALMA, and GIOVANNI DI
RIENZO to face criminal charges in “Operation White Dollar,” a
landmark international money-laundering case that targeted the
Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange (“BMPE”). Operation White
Dollar led to the indictment of 34 defendants in the United
States, Canada, and Colombia, and the forfeiture of more than $20
million in Colombian drug proceeds from bank accounts around the
world. ELLIS, PALMA, and DI RIENZO arrived in New York late
yesterday and are expected to make their initial appearances this
afternoon in Manhattan federal court. According to the
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 elsewhere outside Colombia, and
companies and individuals in Colombia, who wish to purchase U.S.
dollars outside the legitimate Colombian banking system. The
peso brokers arrange for the collection and accumulation of drug
dollars in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere outside of
Colombia, and then arrange for the funds to be deposited into the
U.S. banking system. The peso brokers pay the drug dealers in
Colombia with Colombian pesos. The peso brokers finally then
sell the drug dollars to companies and individuals in Colombia
seeking to avoid the payment of taxes, import duties, and
transaction fees owed to the Colombian government.
During Operation White Dollar, law enforcement officers
successfully penetrated an extensive BMPE operation based in
Colombia. Law enforcement officers posed as money launderers in
the United States and Canada who could receive vast sums of drug
proceeds and deposit the money into the U.S. banking system.
During the investigation, ELLIS, PALMA, and DI RIENZO — each of
whom served as Colombian narcotics traffickers’ operatives in
Canada — each unwittingly provided hundreds of thousands of
dollars worth of drug proceeds to undercover officers in Montreal
between 2002 and 2004 to be laundered through the BMPE.
The extraditions announced today were the result of the
cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for
the Southern District of New York, the DEA, and the United States
Marshals Service, working together as part of the New York
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force (the “Strike
Force”). The Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of
the DEA, the New York City Police Department, the United States
Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the
Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York
State Police, the United States Marshals Service, the United
States Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives. Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative
efforts of the DEA and thanked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
the United Kingdom’s National Crime Squad, and the Colombian
Departamento Administrativo De Seguridad.
Operation White Dollar is being prosecuted by the
Office’s International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant
United States Attorneys BOYD M. JOHNSON III and KEVIN R.
PUVALOWSKI are in charge of the prosecution.