Cartel money launderer sentenced to 96 months in federal prison

Southside Virginia News

Copyright: The Associated Press

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A former owner and operator of a Martinsville business who plead guilty to laundering more than $4.3 million in profits for an international drug cartel, was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to 96 months in federal prison.

Ana Bella Sanchez-Rios is said to have laundered the funds for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a Mexican-based criminal organization considered by the Department of Justice to be one of the most dangerous transnational organizations in the world.

“When individuals launder money for a drug cartel, they play [a] critical role for the organization by concealing and transferring illegally-obtained funds, which perpetuates the cartel’s illegal activity and the scourge of the narcotics the cartel pedals. Money laundering investigations can be particularly difficult, and I’m proud of the hard work of our federal and state law enforcement partners in bringing Sanchez-Rios to justice.”

Daniel P. Bubar, Acting United States Attorney

Sanchez-Rios, 48, was indicted in March of 2019 along with 12 members of CJNG on several other federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

In June of 2020, Sanchez-Rios pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and operating a business that transmitted criminally derived funds.

Court officials say that Sanchez-Rios owned and operated Bella’s Tortilla & Meat Market, a business that contracted with Intermex Wire Transfer, LLC.

Sanchez-Rios admitted that between 2016 and 2018, she used the business to launder the drug trafficking proceeds on behalf of CJNG, which she knew were the drug trafficking proceeds and derived from a criminal offense.

Sanchez-Rios then, according to officials, wired that money to individuals in Mexico.

In total, between May 10, 2016 and Sept. 11, 2018, Sanchez-Rios transferred or caused to be transferred a total of $4,394,959 in proceeds of drug trafficking via Intermex from Bella’s Tortilla & Meat Market in Martinsville to individuals in Mexico.

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