Large Miami Cash Seizure Highlights Mexican Cartel Money Laundering Tactics

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September 2 2017

Mauricio Vargas is no stranger to drug deals or dirty money. His arrest in late August after police detectives said they found over half a million dollars in drug cash inside his Jeep was not his first run-in with the law. According to the Miami Herald, Vargas was busted in 2011 driving to Orlando, Florida to pick up 124 kilograms of cocaine that originated in Texas. He served five years in prison. He also did previous stints in prison for having counterfeit money.

People like Mauricio Vargas are a key component of Mexican drug cartel operations. In this particular case, prosecutors believe Vargas is part of what is known as the “black-market peso exchange,” a drug-fueled underground lending system that props up hundreds of South Florida businesses. Miami-Dade police told the Herald the $537,435 in cash, hidden in a book bag and a box, was proceeds from a cocaine shipment that crossed the U.S. southwest border “originating from the Gulf Cartel.” Drug cartels deal in huge quantities of cash, often in several different nations’ currencies, and require various methods to legitimize (or launder), exchange, and/or deposit drug sale proceeds.