Citizen of Dominican Republic admits role as leader of international money laundering organization


Date: May 4, 2022


The leader of an international money laundering organization in the Dominican Republic today admitted his role in a conspiracy to commit money laundering, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Luis Velazquez-Cordero, aka El Pequeño, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiring to commit money laundering. Velazquez-Cordero was extradited to the United States after his arrest the Dominican Republic on July 28, 2020.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Velazquez-Cordero was the leader of a money laundering organization that used the United States banking system to convert over $80 million in cash from illegal drug sales into cashier's checks and then deposit the checks into United States bank accounts so that the money could be transferred back to international drug trafficking organizations in the Dominican Republic and other countries. Velazquez-Cordero directed conspirators in New Jersey, New York, and Florida to pick up cash drug proceeds and exchange the cash for cashier's checks at United States banks. Velazquez-Cordero provided the amount of each check, the payee, and the bank accounts into which the checks should be deposited. The checks were then deposited into the payee accounts, many of which were controlled by shell corporations and used as a means to facilitate laundering illegal drug proceeds. The cashier's check scheme was designed to conceal the nature, source, ownership, and control of the illegal drug proceeds in order to avoid scrutiny by law enforcement and banking institutions.

As part of his plea, Velazquez-Cordero also agreed to forfeit $1.4 million in United States currency seized during the investigation, as well as five properties in the Dominican Republic and 10 vehicles, including a Ferrari.

The money laundering count to which Velazquez-Cordero pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the amount involved in the offense, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled for September 14, 2022.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins; special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; the DEA Special Operations Division and the Santo Domingo Country Office, under the supervision of Special Agent in Charge Renita D. Foster; officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New York Field Office, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Frank Russo; the Morristown, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Darnell Richardson; the Clifton, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Tom Rinaldi; the Passaic, New Jersey, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Luis A. Guzman; the New York City Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell; the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, under the direction of Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan; the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, under the direction of Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes; the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office under the direction of Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella; the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, under the direction of Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, with the investigation leading to today's guilty plea. The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance in securing Velazquez-Cordero arrest and extradition. U.S. Attorney Sellinger thanked officials in the Dominican Republic for their assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan M. Peck of the National Security Unit in Newark.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.