Three business owners charged with wiring drug trafficking money to Mexico


Date: September 22, 2022


Kansas City, MO — The owners of three money wiring businesses in the Kansas City metropolitan area are among five new defendants charged for their roles in a $4.7 million conspiracy to distribute more than 335 kilograms of methamphetamine and 22 kilograms of heroin, and to utilize wire transfers to send the drug-trafficking proceeds to Mexico.

Ana Lilia Leal-Martinez, a citizen of Mexico residing in Overland Park, Kansas, Ana Paola Banda, and Maria de Lourdes Carbajal, both of whom are citizens of Mexico residing in Shawnee, Kan., Javier A. Alvarez, of Phoenix, Arizona, and John A. Caylor, of Kansas City, Mo., were charged in a 112-count superseding indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The superseding indictment replaces a 91-count indictment that was returned on June 1, 2022; it retains all of the original 39 defendants and charges, and includes five additional defendants and 21 additional counts. The superseding indictment was unsealed and made public today following the arrests and initial court appearances of the additional defendants.

Leal-Martinez, Banda, Carbajal, Alvarez and Caylor, along with all of the original defendants, are charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin from Feb. 28, 2020, to June 1, 2022.

In addition to the drug-trafficking conspiracy, Leal-Martinez, Banda, and Carbajal – who each own a money wiring business – are charged with participating in a money-laundering conspiracy related to transporting or transferring the proceeds of the drug-trafficking conspiracy to Michoacán, Mexico. Leal-Martinez is the owner of Imagen Leal, Banda is the owner of La Bendicion 2, and Carbajal is the owner of Azteca Imports.

Leal-Martinez, Banda, and Carbajal remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing. The government's detention motion notes that drug-trafficking organizations that generate multi-million dollar revenues are unable to effectively operate without individuals who enable foreign drug suppliers to receive proceeds from controlled substances sold here in the United States. Money sent back to Michoacán, Mexico, further fuels the drug trade and attendant violence in communities in the United States and Mexico. Banda, Carbajal, and Leal-Martinez are citizens of Mexico unlawfully present in the United States, says the detention motion, and thus a flight risk.

In the motion for detention, the government states that investigators found numerous wire transfers that were sent in alias sender names, as directed by another member of the drug-trafficking organization, through these businesses during January, February, May, and June 2022 totaling approximately $138,914. Investigators believe this represents a very small portion of the actual drug proceeds sent by this organization.

On June 22, 2022, federal agents with IRS-Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations executed search warrants for evidence of money laundering at La Bendicion 2 and Azteca Imports. A search warrant had previously been executed at Imagen Leal.

The superseding indictment, like the original indictment, charges Mexican nationals Jose Jesus Sanchez-Mendez, also known as "Michoacano," Jesus Morales-Garcia, also known as "Don Jesus," Luis Eduardo Pineda-Zarao, Juan Bernardo Galeana-Aguilar, Baltazar Flores-Norzagaray, also known as "Sinaloa," Rafael Perez-Esquivel, Jose Eliazar Valle-Rivera, Uziel Morales-Baltazar, Erick Fernando Martinez Contreras, also known as "Alex," Joel Enrique Roman, also known as "Pelon," Miguel Angel Juarez-Lopez, also known as "Chapo," Jonathan Zuniga-Villafuerte, Sergio Armando Valencia-Ochoa, Juan Humberto Lemus-Mejia, Yuliana Del Carmen Perez Ciprian, Trinidad Torres-Meza, Miriam Veronica Bustos-Martinez, and Liliana Valencia-Mendoza, addresses unknown; Flor Gonzalez-Celestine, of Kansas City, Mo.; and Jose Bernabe Zamora-Cardenas, also known as "Mufa," of Kansas City, Kan.

The superseding indictment, like the original indictment, also charges Tina Marie Cruces, Lisbet Espino, Frank Anthony Valdivia, Melissa A. Bates, and Monica L. McCubbin, all of Kansas City, Mo.; Santiago Raul Mendieta-Sanchez, a citizen of Honduras residing in Kansas City, Mo., Jennifer S. Lawson, of Buckner, Mo.; Felton Stone Jr., Donald R. Moses, also known as "Moe," Felipe Antonio Alcala, Anthony C. Hughes, Maria Nancy Valdez, Ignacio Barragan-Vazquez, Yvonne Guzman-Carpio, also known as "Morena," Kongmhink Her, addresses unknown; Marco Antonio Salazar, also known as "Tono," and Nelson Alirio Garcia-Guerra, 28, both citizens of Guatemala, addresses unknown; Arantxa Sabrina Valderrama-Barros, also known as "Sabri," a citizen of Venezuela, address unknown; and Daniel Felipe Suarez-Reinoso, a citizen of Colombia, address unknown.

Sanchez-Mendez, Zamora-Cardenas, Valencia-Ochoa, Valencia-Mendoza and Suarez-Reinoso, who were charged in the money-laundering conspiracy in the original indictment, are likewise charged in the superseding indictment.

Sanchez-Mendez and Morales-Garcia are also charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise related to the drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracies and other offenses alleged in the indictment. The indictment alleges Sanchez-Mendez and Morales-Garcia occupied a position of organizer, supervisor, or manager of the ongoing criminal enterprise, from which they obtained substantial income.

The federal indictment charges various defendants in various counts of distributing heroin and fentanyl, distributing methamphetamine, possessing methamphetamine and heroin with the intent to distribute, possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, money laundering, reentry by an illegal alien, and using cell phones to facilitate drug-trafficking crimes.

The indictment also contains forfeiture allegations that would require the defendants to forfeit to the government $4,718,700, which represents the proceeds of the alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy and criminal enterprise. The indictment alleges the conspiracy involved the distribution of more than 335.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, with an average street price of $300 per ounce, and more than 22.1 kilograms of heroin, with an average street price of $1,500 per ounce.

The forfeiture allegations would also require the defendants to forfeit to the government $277,440 that was seized by law enforcement officers from a vehicle driven by Suarez-Reinoso and $114,863 that was seized by law enforcement officers while executing search warrants at four Kansas City, Mo., residences.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Byron H. Black, Patrick C. Edwards, and Mary Kate Butterfield. It was investigated by , IRS-Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Jackson County Drug Task Force, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Olmsted County, Minn., Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the Clay County, Mo., Sheriff's Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force

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.

KC Metro Strike Force

This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks. These prosecutor-led co-located Strike Forces capitalize on the synergy created through the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors who remain together over time, and they epitomize the model that has proven most effective in combating organized crime. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.