Federal indictment: California group partnered with Sinaloa Cartel & Chinese underground banking

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department alleges that a California-based group with links to the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and Chinese underground banking processed large amounts of drug proceeds in U.S. currency. The allegations come in a ten-count indictment, which states that during the conspiracy more than $50 million in drug money flowed between Sinaloa and Chinese underground money exchanges.

The multi-year investigation named “Operation Fortune Runner” resulted in the indictment, which charges 24 people with counts such as conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

“The money remitters allegedly disposed of the drug proceeds by either delivering United States currency directly to their money exchange customers or by purchasing real or personal property, including luxury goods and cars to be shipped to China. Additionally, the remitters also moved illicit drug proceeds through cryptocurrency transactions,” a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice reads.

Twenty of the defendants are expected to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles in the coming weeks. If convicted on all charges, each person faces ten years to life in prison.

“Dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine are destroying people’s lives but drug traffickers only care about their profits,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “To protect our community, therefore, it is essential that we go after the sophisticated, international criminal syndicates that launder the drug money.”