Authorities are calling downtown LA the new Miami—as far as drug money laundering schemes go.
Investigators say Mexican drug cartels have increasingly been laundering money through Los Angeles, and a giant 1,000-agent raid Wednesday seems to support that conclusion—authorities apparently recouped close to $90 million from dozens of businesses and homes in the downtown LA area.
The most harrowing allegations came in the Q.T. Fashion case investigated by the FBI. A drug distributor for the Sinaloa cartel was taken hostage in October 2012 after his 100-kilogram shipment of cocaine was seized by U.S. authorities. Held at a ranch in Culiacán, Sinaloa, he was beaten, shot, waterboarded and electro-shocked, the indictment said.
The man's family was told to deliver a $140,000 ransom to Q.T. Fashion, a maternity wholesale store, which used the money as payment for a clothing shipment to a Sinaloa retail store. The retail store then paid the cartel $140,000 in pesos for the shipment, effectively laundering the ransom.
"Los Angeles has become the epicenter of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses," an assistant US attorney told the LA Times.
[image via AP]