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US attorney charges 19 in alleged drug money laundering conspiracy

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Attorney's office in Massachusetts on Tuesday revealed new money laundering conspiracy charges aimed at taking down Colombian drug traffickers with ties to the U.S.

The newly unsealed indictment targets 19 people -- residents of Colombia, Jamaica, and Florida -- who allegedly participated in what U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins described as a "really complicated conspiracy."

The defendants are accused of facilitating large transfers and pick-ups of cash and then obscuring the money trail or "cleaning" the proceeds from illegal narcotics sales through a black market Peso exchange. The organization allegedly laundered about $6 million through U.S. financial institutions, Rollins said at a press conference.

"The exchange is a means for Colombian drug trafficking organizations with profits generated by drug sales in the United States to launder their proceeds into Colombian pesos," Rollins said. "Each of these 19 defendants held different roles and responsibilities including drug suppliers, Peso brokers, money launderers, and dollar purchasers."

U.S. authorities say they've connected 3,000 kilograms of seized cocaine -- valued at over 90 million -- to the money laundering organization. The allegations are the product of a five-year investigation involving hundreds of agents, undercover and confidential sources, as well as cooperating witnesses used to infiltrate the narcotics operation.

"The money laundering scheme detailed today allowed drug traffickers to peddle their poison in Massachusetts and throughout the United States," Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Brian D. Boyle told reporters. "Our neighbors, friends and families are being impacted by the vast and sophisticated operations of drug cartels which know no boundaries."

Five of those charged were arrested in Florida and Jamaica this morning and 13 others were arrested in Colombia and Jamaica last month. The U.S. is seeking extradition for those outside the country, Rollins said.

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