Colorado Car Dealer Arrested for Money Laundering

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The owner of a Colorado car dealership and two of his associates were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly structuring and using the car dealership in order to conceal money made from drugs, law enforcement authorities have announced . Here are the details.

* The Colorado District of the U.S. Attorney's office stated that Raul Mendoza, 48 -- the owner of Chopeque Auto Sales -- and Julia Castillo-Caraveo, 28, of Denver, were arrested along with Isidro Noe Mendoza-Ortiz, 25, of Thornton, Colo., after having been named weeks ago in a sealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Denver.

* In addition to the arrests, agents and officers executed search warrants at a residence and at an automobile business. Twenty automobiles with clear titles from the car dealership were seized.

* Authorities say that from February 2008 to May 2012, Mendoza and Mendoza-Ortiz conspired with each other and others to structure currency by depositing just under $10,000 in order to evade required bank reporting on deposits over $10,000.

* During that time, the two structured over 700 deposits totaling $4,543,714, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.

* According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the defendants twice sold vehicles to undercover police officers in exchange for money that was represented as the proceeds of drug distribution.

* "Particularly, Chopeque Auto Sales sold automobiles to known drug dealers, prepared false documents relating to the sale of vehicles to known drug dealers, structured currency deposits to conceal the source, falsely claimed to law enforcement authorities to be the valid lien holder of a seized vehicle in order to assist a known drug dealer in seeking the return of the vehicle," the attorney's office reported.

* If convicted, the defendants will forfeit to the United States all of their right, title and interest to all property, real or personal, involved in the offenses and all proceeds traceable to the property, the attorney's office stated.

* Mendoza faces three counts of structuring and three counts of money laundering. Castillo-Caraveo was charged with two counts of structuring and three counts of money laundering. Mendoza-Ortiz was charged with two counts of structuring and two counts of money laundering. Each count carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

* The case was investigated by agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. Additional assistance was provided by the Denver Police Department, Commerce City Police Department, Thornton Police Department and the Department of Revenue-Auto Industry Division.

* All three defendants are scheduled for a detention hearing and arraignment on Friday.

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