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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

7 Plead Guilty to Money Laundering for Cali Cartel

May 19, 1999

LOS ANGELES — Seven accused money launderers for the Cali drug cartel pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court as they were about to go on trial in connection with Operation Casablanca, a 2 1/2-year investigation of international drug money laundering.

Five of the defendants entered their pleas Friday and two more pleaded guilty Monday on the eve of what would have been the second of four trials stemming from the massive probe.

In the first trial, which is continuing, six Mexican bankers, stockbrokers and businessmen are accused of laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds funneled to them through a business front operated by undercover U.S. customs agents.

Two other trials are pending against suspected members of the Juarez drug cartel and a group of Venezuelan bankers.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph A. Brandolino said the defendants will be sentenced on different dates beginning in August on charges ranging from money-laundering conspiracy to aiding and abetting the distribution of narcotics.

Operation Casablanca resulted in the indictment last May of more than 100 people and three Mexican banks. Many of those charged are either fugitives or have pleaded guilty. The government has also seized more than $100 million in assets.

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