Two Passaic County men admitted in federal court that they laundered nearly $4 million in drug cash for international cartels operating in New Jersey and New York, authorities announced.
Erickson Checo-Almonte, 31 of Passaic, and Jordano Abreu-Diaz, 24 of Clifton, were among six defendants charged in the operation.
Morristown police helped the DEA and IRS crack the case, in which those involved converted cash from drug sales in the two states to more than 1,000 cashier’s checks, Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Rachael Honig said.
The checks were then sent to brokers “acting on behalf of drug trafficking organizations with ties to the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and elsewhere,” she said.
Those involved were typically paid a fee of $150 to $200 for each check they purchased, the U.S. attorney said.
Almonte and Abreu-Diaz took deals from the government rather than go to trial. They separately pleaded guilty by videoconference on Monday to “aiding and abetting an illegal money transmitting business,” Honig said.
Erickson Checo-Almonte accepted over $3.9 million in cash and bought over 137 cashier’s checks at local bank branches in New Jersey and elsewhere from April 2017 through March 2019, the U.S. attorney said.
Abreu-Diaz accepted more than $1 million in cash and purchased 39 cashier’s checks at banks in New Jersey and elsewhere from November 2016 through August 2017, she added.
It was all “part of a large-scale illegal money transmitting and money laundering scheme designed to hide the illegal source of the cash and transfer it from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic and Colombia while attempting to avoid scrutiny by law enforcement and U.S. banks,” Honig said.
U.S. District Brian Martinotti scheduled sentencings for March 2 in Newark.
Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division, special agents and task force officers of IRS - Criminal Investigation, Morristown police and the Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas (the Dominican Republic National Drug Directorate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan M. Peck of her Criminal Division in Newark secured the pleas, she said.
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