Tampa couple sentenced in multimillion dollar money laundering scheme


Date: October 24, 2022

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Tampa, FL — U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven has sentenced Virginia Garcia Moreta and Hector Rodriguez Mendez to 70 and 63 months in federal prison, respectively, for conspiring to commit money laundering. As part of their sentences, the court also entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $21,567,939, which represented the proceeds of the conspiracy. The couple had pleaded guilty on June 10, 2022.

According to court documents, Garcia Moreta and Rodriguez Mendez led a Tampa-based money laundering organization responsible for laundering more than $20 million in drug proceeds in over 400 transactions. During the conspiracy, the couple received substantial amounts of drug proceeds, then gave bundles of cash with purchase instructions to people whom Rodriguez Mendez had recruited in order to purchase cashier's checks. These checks often listed as the remitter either a co-conspirator or a business registered in the co-conspirator's name. The co-conspirators then often traveled to several banks in the same day in order to avoid suspicion. These cashier's checks were then given to other businesses and individuals involved in the conspiracy.

On June 18, 2019, troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol stopped Garcia Moreta while she was in possession of a bag containing cashier's checks and receipts for cashier's checks totaling more than $1 million.

In total, investigators identified $21,567,939 that was laundered in furtherance of the conspiracy. The defendants' share of the proceeds for their role in the scheme was approximately three percent.

"The dirty cash from drug trafficking cannot legally be introduced into the commerce stream, so traffickers rely on money launderers to "clean it"," said Brian Payne, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge. "Those who launder drug proceeds are just as vile and culpable as the traffickers themselves, which is why today's sentences properly hold the defendants responsible for their actions."

"The main motivation of these drug trafficking organizations is profit at the expense of the safety and health of our citizens. The actions of these individuals assisted the drug traffickers bringing this poison into our communities," said DEA Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne L. Reuter. "This successful collaboration between the DEA Miami Field Division and our federal partners highlights the importance of financial investigations in the fight against narcotics trafficking in Florida."

This operation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Florida Highway Patrol. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Baez. The forfeiture was handled by U.S. Attorney Suzanne Nebesky.