Article: Major players plead guilty in ‘funnel account’ scam at Rio Rico bank

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Major players plead guilty in ‘funnel account’ scam at Rio Rico bank

Nogales International, 2 May 2021

Three key members of a scheme to transfer organized crime proceeds from the United States to Mexico through so-called “funnel accounts” opened at the Wells Fargo bank in Rio Rico have now pleaded guilty to federal charges.

The latest guilty plea, which was accepted by a judge during a hearing on Wednesday at U.S. District Court in Tucson, was from Carlos Antonio Vasquez, the former manager of the bank branch. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering – a crime that normally carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but for which Vasquez will receive no more than 34 months (2 years, 10 months) in exchange for his plea.

The conspiracy reportedly lasted from February 2017 until August 2019.

According to the factual basis of Vasquez’s deal, he knew that the bank had closed the accounts of at least one member of a money laundering organization. Even so, he allowed the person, who is not named in the document, as well as other co-conspirators, to bring Mexican citizens to the branch in Rio Rico to open accounts with cash given to them by the conspirators.

The accounts were generally opened with cash amounts totaling less than $10,000, the government previously alleged. But once they were opened, the accounts reportedly began receiving large cash deposits from bank branches in Arizona and elsewhere in the United States.

The new accounts had a professional benefit for Vasquez: They made it look like the Rio Rico Wells Fargo branch was attracting new customers in furtherance of the bank’s sales goals. But according to federal prosecutors, Vasquez knew that the funds used to open the accounts were the proceeds of drug trafficking, and he allowed the accounts to be used to “funnel” the money to Mexico via wire transfers.

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