The owner of a South El Monte import-export company and the company’s manager were charged with using the business to move millions linked to illegal activity from the United States to Mexico.
Authorities didn’t say if the money came from drug traffickers.
Peace & Rich Import, Inc. on Weaver Avenue in South El Monte, the company’s co-owner and president Chaur Hwan “Kenny” Lin, 66, of San Marino and company manager Antonio Pareja, 53, of San Gabriel were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that include conspiracy, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, 63 counts of failure to file currency transaction reports and 28 counts of structuring financial transactions.
The indictment was filed in federal court on Feb. 13. It wasn’t clear if the defendants were arraigned Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court.
The defendants received large sums and worked with peso brokers in Mexico to illegally convert the dollars to pesos, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Peace & Rich Import, Inc. was described by federal officials as a wholesale distributor of silk flowers and other goods. But authorities allege Lin and Pareja ran the business as an informal money transfer system.
Couriers working in conjunction with a peso broker in Mexico delivered tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, to the business, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleged that the South El Monte company took in cash and did transactions without being registered as a money transmitting business and without filing reports which are required when a business accepts cash payments of more than $10,000.
Lin and Pareja allegedly disbursed the money as directed by a broker in Mexico to couriers for delivery to other businesses in America on behalf of their Mexico-based customers.
Lin also allegedly made a series of deposits that were less than $10,000 to avoid the filing of reports by the financial institutions where the deposits were made.
The scam is called a black market peso exchange scheme and is used to illegally bypass paying the fees banks charge for transferring money from one country to another, according to the indictment.
The court documents outline how such a scheme works.
A peso broker works with someone engaged in illegal activity, such as a drug trafficker, who has dollars that he needs to bring to Mexico and convert to pesos.
The broker finds business owners in Mexico who buy goods from vendors in the United States, such as Peace & Rich, and need dollars to pay for those goods.
The broker then arranges for the illegally obtained dollars to be delivered to the American vendors where they are used to pay for the goods bought by the customers from Mexico.
Once the merchandise is shipped to Mexico and sold by the business owners there for pesos, the money is turned over to the broker.
The broker then pays the drug trafficker in Mexico.
– Ruby Gonzales