Five defendants charged in conspiracy to launder illicit drug proceeds

 

Date: June 15, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Chicago — An indictment unsealed today in federal court charges five defendants with conspiring to launder illicit drug proceeds in Chicago for more than a decade.

Charged in the money laundering conspiracy are Vivianna Lopez, also known as "Mia Flores;" Valerie Gaytan, also known as "Olivia Flores;" Armando Flores of Round Rock, Texas; Laura Lopez of Chicago, Ill.; and Bianca Finnigan of Sycamore, Ill.

The indictment was returned June 9, 2021, in U.S. District Court in Chicago, and ordered unsealed today. Initial court appearances for Laura Lopez and Finnigan are scheduled to occur telephonically today at 3:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert in Chicago. Vivianna Lopez, Gaytan, and Armando Flores were arrested today outside of the Northern District of Illinois. Their initial court appearances in other federal district courts will be held at times to be determined.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Tamera Cantu, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Robert J. Bell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and William Hedrick, Inspector-in-Charge of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Erskine and Erika L. Csicsila.

According to the indictment, the defendants laundered drug trafficking proceeds generated by the husbands of Vivianna Lopez and Gaytan. The husbands surrendered to federal authorities in December 2008 and were incarcerated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the indictment states. For the next 12 years, the defendants maintained portions of the drug proceeds at multiple locations, including Laura Lopez's residence in Chicago and Armando Flores's residence in Texas, and used the money for the benefit of themselves, the incarcerated husbands, and others, the indictment states. The conspirators allegedly laundered the money through the use of currency exchanges, credit cards, money orders, gift cards, U.S. mail deliveries, and other means.

The charges allege that the money was spent on various items, including more than $165,000 in private school tuition for children of Vivianna Lopez and Gaytan, more than $99,000 in international and domestic travel by Vivianna Lopez and Gaytan, more than $80,000 for Vivianna Lopez's residential rent, and approximately $11,000 in child support for a child of one of the incarcerated husbands.

The indictment seeks forfeiture from Vivianna Lopez and Gaytan in the amount of $504,858.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.