(LOS ANGELES) — About 1,000 law enforcement officers executed dozens of search warrants in the Los Angeles Fashion District on Wednesday, arresting nine people and seizing at least $65 million in cash from businesses linked to international drug cartels.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California, one of the indictments unsealed on Wednesday accused the Sinaloa Drug Cartel of using a business in the Fashion District to accept and launder ransom payments for the release of a U.S. citizen who had been kidnapped, held hostage and tortured in Mexico.
Two other indictments involved alleged money laundering by a pair of Los Angeles businesses using the Black Market Peso Exchange scheme, which involves a “peso broker” who matches up criminals with businesses in currency exchanges.
“Today’s arrests and searches should send a message to international drug cartels that the FBI and our partners won’t tolerate the exploitation of American businesses for the purposes of illicit financial transactions that fund hostage-taking and the distribution of narcotics,” said Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division.
According to Bill Bodnar of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, “the message law enforcement is sending to the fashion district and the whole, whole sale district is clear…if you’re a business owner who chooses to be involved in trade based money laundering, this is just the beginning. The law enforcement community in Los Angeles is coming after you.”
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