Arlington, Virginia - The leader of a money laundering network was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison for laundering tens of millions of dollars in drug proceeds on behalf of foreign drug trafficking organizations.
According to court documents, Xizhi Li, 48, a U.S. citizen who previously resided in Mexico, led a years-long scheme to launder money on behalf of transnational drug trafficking organizations. To carry out the scheme, Li and his conspirators used a foreign casino; foreign and domestic front companies; foreign and domestic bank accounts (some of which were opened under fictitious identities; encrypted communications platforms; and false identification documents. Li often dealt directly with members of drug trafficking organizations or their representatives to obtain “contracts” to move their drug proceeds. Once Li and his co-conspirators obtained a “contract” to launder drug proceeds, they would engage in financial transactions that were designed to conceal the illicit source of the original proceeds in return for the payment of commissions.
On Aug. 2, Li pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. Tuesday, Li signed a consent order of forfeiture for $10,000,000 to the United States pursuant to his plea.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber of the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Division and the DEA’s Special Operations Division – Bilateral Investigations Unit investigated this case, with assistance from the DEA’s Office of Special Intelligence, Document and Media Exploitation Unit and the DEA’s offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Omaha, Atlanta, Newark, Portland Dallas, Mexico City, Merida (Mexico), Guatemala City, Belmopan (Belize), Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines), Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Lima (Peru), and Canberra (Australia). The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Interpol, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Targeting Center were partners in the investigation of this case.
This prosecution is part of two investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, known as Operation Dark Castle and Operation Taishan Triangle.
Trial Attorneys Kerry Blackburn, Mary K. Daly, and Stephen A. Sola of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Peters and Michael P. Ben’Ary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.