Article: Chinese money-laundering rings in Chicago, New York cleaning Mexican drug cartel cash

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Chinese money-laundering rings in Chicago, New York cleaning Mexican drug cartel cash

Frank Main and Jon Seidel , 30 April 2021

A Chinese money-launderer was about to pick up Mexican drug-cartel cash in Chicago, federal authorities say, when his plans suddenly changed.

They say the suspected launderer got a call from a man he thought was a Mexican money courier who told him they needed to change their meeting place because he’d spotted a cop. “You Asian, I’m Mexican — not a good look,” the courier said in the 2017 phone call, court records show.

So they picked a different address to meet. They described their cars to each other. And when they met on the Southwest Side, they had a way to identify each other, authorities say: The money-launderer handed the courier a $1 bill. The men had agreed earlier that the serial number on the bill — G5915410C — would confirm the Chinese man’s identity. Authorities say that’s common in the world of drug-trafficking.

They say the courier then turned over a Menards shopping bag stuffed with nearly $200,000 in cash to Huazhi Han, who later was charged with money-laundering.

But the courier was no courier. He was an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA agents arrested Han and say they found a gun in his van. They also searched the Riverside home where he was living and seized about $1.2 million they found hidden in the ceiling there, according to court documents.

Han’s now awaiting trial on money-laundering charges in Chicago.

He was part of a network of Chinese nationals who were using complex financial schemes to launder Mexican cartel cash, federal authorities say. Such schemes have disguised tens of millions of dollars of drug proceeds into what are supposed to look like legitimate business transactions, according to law-enforcement sources and court documents.

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