A former bank investment officer who was "a necessary participant" in a $36-million money-laundering scheme was sentenced Monday to five years in prison.
U.S. District Judge John Rhoades also imposed fines totaling $259,700 on Guillermina Watson, 55, of Ramona. She will serve five years' probation upon her release.
"I hope this sentence tells other bankers that the government is vigorous in terms of prosecuting such cases and that the courts are trying to impose proper sentences for such crimes," Rhoades said.
A jury convicted Watson, who worked at Bank of America's now-closed Coronado branch, of 194 counts of conspiracy, receiving gratuities, and aiding and abetting in false currency transaction reports. The reports must be filed with the government whenever a single transaction of $10,000 or more is made.
Watson testified that she was told the members of a Latin American family who were depositing large amounts of money at the bank had inherited a gold mine in Colombia and were dealing in precious metals.
"The jury didn't believe what you testified to, and neither did I," Rhoades said. "This is a case where greed won out over duty, loyalty and common sense."
None of the charges against Watson or others charged in connection with a Colombian family's scheme to move $36 million through San Diego banks and a San Ysidro currency exchange in 1985 and 1986 said the money came from drug profits, although Rhoades believes that was the source.
"It's true there was no proof the money came from drug trafficking, but I've indicated in previous sentencings (of co-defendants) that there was a strong aroma but no proof," he said.
"She was a necessary participant. She played her part in the entire conspiracy. . . . . It's true she wasn't the head honcho, but she provided the grease to keep this evil machine running."