Tijuana businessman who laundered millions for Sinaloa cartel pleads guilty

Cesar Hernandez Martinez owned currency exchange houses in Mexico, which he used to transfer drug money to cartel

SAN DIEGO April 11, 2019 —  A leader of a money-laundering ring associated with the Sinaloa cartel has pleaded guilty to overseeing the movement of $13 million in drug proceeds from the U.S. to Mexico, authorities said.

Cesar Hernandez Martinez, 29, of Tijuana is the fourth person to plead guilty in the investigation.

He was extradited from Mexico to San Diego in September.

According to the investigation, multi-kilogram amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin were smuggled into the U.S. by a drug-trafficking organization affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel.

To move the drug proceeds back into the hands of the organization, Hernandez coordinated couriers who would pick up the money from people in Southern California, then smuggle the cash south across the border in secret compartments in vehicles, according to his plea agreement. The smuggled cash would then be washed through currency exchange businesses that Hernandez owned and operated in Tijuana.

The scheme operated from April 2013 to November 2015, the plea states.

The ring also smuggled drug money into the U.S., deposited it into U.S. banks, then wire-transferred the funds to Mexican banks, according to the indictment.

Hernandez, who entered his plea April 4, faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $26 million — twice the amount involved in the conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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