San Diego, California - A Culiacan, Mexico man pleaded guilty to international money laundering in connection with his operation of a currency exchange house that received the proceeds of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa Cartel, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. of the Southern District of California.

Gibran Rodriguez-Mejia, 31, was extradited from Mexico to San Diego in September 2018, and is the fifth Mexican-based defendant in this case to enter a guilty plea, doing so before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin.  Rodriguez-Mejia will be sentenced on July 8, 2019 before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez. 

Through his plea agreement, Rodriguez-Mejia admitted to laundering $3.5 million in drug proceeds.  He coordinated with couriers, primarily located in Southern California, who smuggled the bulk of U.S. currency from the United States to Mexico.  Rodriguez-Mejia also admitted that he arranged for currency to be smuggled to an exchange house in Tijuana, Mexico owned and operated by co-defendant Cesar Hernandez-Martinez, who pleaded guilty on April 4, 2019 and will be sentenced on July 8, 2019.  After the money was converted to Mexican pesos, Rodriguez-Mejia provided financial accounts in Mexico into which the money was deposited for the benefit of the Mexican-based cartel drug traffickers.

In addition to the five defendants in this case, approximately 20 other individuals have entered guilty pleas and have been previously sentenced in related cases.  Those cases have involved individuals based in the United States or individuals who have frequently crossed into the United States and served as money couriers, drug couriers and drug stash-house operators and who were part of, or related to, the same money laundering and drug trafficking organization.

Omar Ayon-Diaz, Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga and Joel Acedo-Ojeda have also pleaded guilty in this case and have been sentenced to 120 months, 132 months and 135 months in prison, respectively.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Field Office conducted the investigation.  Senior Trial Counsel Mark A. Irish of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence A. Casper of the Southern District of California prosecuted the case.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant support with the defendant’s extradition.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office is working together in this matter with the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.