Eight individuals sentenced to prison for laundering $44 million in drug proceeds to Mexico through local cell phone storefronts


Date: April 9, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

COLUMBUS, OH — The final of eight defendants in a $44 million money-laundering case was sentenced today in U.S. District Court. Sentences imposed range from five years to 18 years in prison.

Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley sentenced Rodrigo Esqueda-Vazquez, today to 180 months in prison.

Defendant Name Sentence Received Date of Sentencing
Jose Luis Rosales-Ocampo 144 months 10/23/2020
Thania Rosales-Guadarrama 84 months 10/23/2020
Josue Gama-Perez 72 months 10/23/2020
Dulce Rosales-Guadarrama 87 months 12/4/2020
Eliezar Mendoza-Nava 216 months 3/19/2021
Rodrigo Esqueda-Vazquez 180 months 4/9/2021
Julio Angel Gonzalez 120 months 10/23/2020
Rodolfo Franco-Valdez 60 months 11/20/2020


Local and federal law enforcement, working in conjunction, spent years investigating large-scale narcotics traffickers in an effort that ultimately brought down the money-laundering ring.

According to court documents, beginning around 2013 and continuing until September 2019, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin, fentanyl and marijuana and commit large-scale money laundering.

The schemes relied on the use of small businesses that held themselves out as cell phone stores. The stores sold few, if any, cell phones, and they conducted little, if any, legitimate business otherwise. Rather, the stores were merely front businesses for drug traffickers to send large amounts of money related to their drug trafficking from Columbus to Mexico.

Jose Luis Rosales-Ocampo, of Columbus, and his family members ran the so-called cell phone stores: Los Rosales on Shady Lane Road, Los Rosales 2 on East Main Street and Express Cellular on Eastland Square Drive.

The storefronts principally served as a place for individuals to wire illicit drug proceeds to Mexico. Thousands of illicit wire transfers were completed per year. Drug dealers from multiple narcotics-trafficking cells would drop large amounts of narcotics money at the stores, after which the store owners would falsify money sender names, addresses and phone numbers on the wire transfers to Mexico in order to conceal the nature of the proceeds.

In total, the joint state–federal efforts led to the prosecution of eight defendants federally and 35 defendants by the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office. The investigation and prosecution of these defendants removed approximately 34 kilograms of heroin, 516 grams of cocaine, 76 grams of fentanyl and 250 pounds of marijuana from Central Ohio streets. Additionally, investigators seized $458,500 in U.S. currency as part of the investigation and prosecution of these cases.

Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Detroit Division; Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack; Acting Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods and officials with the Ohio HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's Ohio Organized Crime Commission announced the sentences.

Assistant United States Attorneys S. Courter Shimeall and Jessica W. Knight represented the United States in this case. Daniel J. Stanley, formerly with the office of Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack, also represented the United States in this case as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.