The case of a Honduran money launderer, soon to be sentenced in the United States, has shed light on the importance of brokers and US bank accounts for repatriating drug money.
Kensy García Torres, a financial broker for a Honduran cartel, recently pled guilty to laundering over $1.8 million in drug money between 2018 and 2019, according to a plea agreement filed with prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida. García Torres was arrested in Miami earlier this year and her sentencing is reportedly scheduled for August 12.
According to the charges against her, García Torres contacted an FBI informant in late 2018 to help the group launder money in Miami. US prosecutors did not identify the group by name but alleged its leader was Fredy Donaldo Marmol Vallejo – a former top leader of Honduras’ Atlantic Cartel, which manages cocaine-smuggling operations on the country’s Caribbean coast.
Working on García Torres’ instructions, the FBI informant collected five bulk cash payments – stuffed in duffel bags or briefcases – from hotels and other locations in Miami. The payments totaled between $77,000 and $359,000 and were proceeds from drug trafficking, according to US prosecutors.
On receiving the money, García Torres provided the informant with instructions for paying commissions to the group of money launderers. The informant wired the illicit funds back to Honduras via US bank accounts or repatriated the money in cash using human couriers.
For each payment, García Torres and her associates took a 7 percent cut. The informant received 1 percent, while 4 percent went to the informant’s company.
García Torres and her associates received over $120,000 in commissions for laundering the drug money during her time in the conspiracy, according to the plea agreement.
InSight Crime Analysis
García Torres’ case offers a glimpse into how criminal groups like the Atlantic Cartel repatriate profits from the drug trade using brokers and bank accounts in the US.
Drug groups receive millions of dollars in illicit cash, and brokers like García Torres are key to separating the funds into smaller chunks that can be wired through US banks accounts or carried home in cash without raising eyebrows.
The US banking system is central to this. Drug traffickers often receive cash payments in the United States – the primary destination for Latin America cocaine. Depositing the funds into US accounts provides a legitimate front for transferring and hiding the money.
Prosecutors estimate the FBI informant laundered approximately $2.8 million for the Atlantic Cartel with García Torres’ assistance over the course of the US investigation, highlighting the potential for quick financial gains.
Drug groups in Mexico and Colombia have likely channeled hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the US banking system over recent years.
This includes Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG). Both groups laundered millions of dollars through the US financial system using brokers, according to US prosecutors. The brokers allegedly picked up bulk cash payments in the US and deposited them into "fictitious funnel business bank accounts," before wiring the funds to personal accounts in Mexico.