San Diego/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 21, 2024
Leader of Sinaloa Cartel Money Laundering Ring Sentenced to 10 Years in San Diego CaseSource: Google Street View

In San Diego, Luis Reinaldo Ramirez of Mesa, Arizona, has been slammed with a 10-year prison sentence for his leadership role in a high-flying money laundering scheme funneling $16.5 million for the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. Alongside, he's also being punished for his hand in a vicious extortion racket, as per the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Part of a broader bust, Ramirez was indicted with 11 others over a range of felonies, including drug trafficking and money laundering, following a two-year probe by the FBI and DEA, which also scored over $1.3 million in seized assets. He spearheaded a network of sham companies, directing employees to collect and launder cash across major cities, snaring buckets of dirty money from traffickers, the feds say.

The intricate operation was spotted on FBI radar in a November 2020 sting in Chicago that cornered two operatives, Idsel Valenzuela and Sugey Caro Salazar, with a whopping 368 pounds of crystal meth, 10 kilos of heroin, and nearly $100,000 in cash. Details on this dramatic haul were released by the Department of Justice.

The feds threw the book at several of Ramirez’s cronies earlier this year. Sentences dished out include 60 months for Cristian Amaya Nava, 30 months for Christian Cruz Polanco, and 48 months for Caro Salazar, with others slapped on the wrist with probation. Additional co-defendants eye sentencing soon, while three remain at large in Mexico. Surprisingly, the alleged former ringleader is counted among them.

The investigation, fed by a pipeline of intel and a joint force of agencies, aimed to scatter the cartel's U.S. financial pillow. They seized big guns from bank accounts and got hands-on cash and even a drug-funded Volvo tractor-trailer, the Bureau said. But perhaps most important was saving two individuals from the cartel's cruel extortion clutches in early 2021.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy hammered home the victory, declaring to the Department of Justice, “The sentencing of Mr. Ramirez is a major step toward dismantling the Sinaloa Cartel.” Similarly, the DEA's Acting Special Agent in Charge, Anthony Chrysanthis, added, “Drug trafficking is a violent crime that harms our citizens and weakens our communities.” Undoubtedly, Uncle Sam's agents will keep the pressure, blowing wide open the doors that lead to the takedown of such titanic criminal networks.