21 Indicted in Colorado in Connection with International Black Market Marijuana and Money Laundering Scheme – The Denver Post

21 Indicted in Colorado in Connection with International Black Market Marijuana and Money Laundering Scheme – The Denver Post

Over the past five years, the DEA has discovered that Chinese money laundering organizations had become the mechanism utilized by drug trafficking organizations to launder their drug money through the U.S., investigators alleged in a 24-page Arapahoe County grand jury indictment. “It just created the entire narcotic cycle — within the organizations, the cartels and through the money laundering organizations — and that is how the money moves around the world,” said Steve Cagen, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations. “A lot of times without actually moving the dollar.” The money, prosecutors said, would be exchanged using Chinese social media apps that also have digital wallets and QR codes that can easily be shared.

Kellner described the investigation as a “money-laundering case with a side of marijuana.” Charges for the 21 suspects range from racketeering and conspiracy under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act to drug cultivation and distribution to money laundering.

The money, derived from illicit Colorado marijuana grows, would cycle from the U.S. to China to Central and South America, and ultimately back to American soil. “I want to emphasize that while this is a micro-cell in our state of Colorado… we believe that this is going on on a macro-level across the entire United States,” said John Kellner, the district attorney for Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

The two allegedly set up a grow operation there eight or nine months ago using money from their Colorado weed scheme, Haskell County Sheriff Tom Turner told The Denver Post.   Two of the individuals accused of participating in this operation were involved in marijuana cultivation efforts in Haskell County, Oklahoma, a rural community in the southeastern portion of the state.

On March 2, agents busted into homes in Centennial and Deer Trail, where they found thousands of dollars in cash, pounds of packaged marijuana and grow rooms set up to cultivate pot, investigators detailed in the indictment. Key pieces of the investigation came together on Nov. 20 at a strip mall near Cherry Creek State Park in Centennial, when an undercover officer set up a meeting with two of the alleged participants. Agents found $46,000 in cash, which prosecutors allege came from illegal marijuana operations.

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