DOJ Reveals Alleged Link Between Cartels and Chinese Bankers

( – China is one of the largest manufacturers of fentanyl in the world. The country’s criminal organizations often work with Mexican drug cartels to distribute the deadly drug. The Department of Justice recently announced a link between cartels and Chinese financial institutes.

On June 18, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced a superseding indictments against associates of the Sinaloa drug cartel for conspiring with underground Chinese banking groups to launder money. According to prosecutors, the scheme between Los Angeles-based associates of the cartel and Chinese money exchanges involved about $50 million.

US Attorney Martin Estrada said, “drugs like fentanyl and [meth] are destroying people’s lives,” but said drug traffickers don’t care about that; they’re only concerned with their profits. He went on to say that it’s critical for authorities to “go after the sophisticated, international criminal syndicates that launder the drug money,” and that’s what they did with the recent superseding indictment.

The move was the result of a years-long investigation, called “Operation Fortune Runner.” Two dozen individuals are each charged with one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of meth and cocaine, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business, and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

During the investigation, law enforcement seized 302 pounds of cocaine, 3,000 Ecstasy pills, 44 pounds of magic mushrooms, 92 pounds of meth, three semi-automatic rifles, eight handguns, ketamine, and $5 million.

The lead defendant in the indictment is 45-year-old Edgar Joel Martinez-Reyes. The Los Angeles resident is accused of hiding the source of the money by trade-based laundering, buying cryptocurrency, and “structuring” assets to avoid requirements of federal financial reporting. He allegedly traveled to Mexico to meet members of the cartel in 2021 and then struck a deal between them and the Chinese underground banking industry.

Authorities in Mexico and China arrested individuals named in the indictment after they fled the US. They were initially charged for their alleged involvement in the crimes in 2023.

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