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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Drug Money Figure to Get 23-Year Term

November 21, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Victor Manuel Alcala Navarro, a key figure in the biggest drug money laundering investigation in U.S. history, will be sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison under a plea agreement announced Monday with federal prosecutors here.

Alcala, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty to two new drug money laundering charges in federal court Monday, for a total of 27 criminal counts to which he has entered guilty pleas since his arrest in May 1998.

He was one of 100 people and three Mexican banks indicted as a result of a two-year Customs Department probe of money laundering by the Cali and Juarez drug cartels and their use of Mexican and Venezuelan banks.

Alcala, a money launderer for the Juarez syndicate, unwittingly introduced undercover customs agents to Mexican bankers and businessmen willing to launder narcotics profits for a commission.

Two of Alcala's brothers were also caught in the government sting. One was acquitted at a trial and the other pleaded guilty.

Alcala, who steadfastly refused to cooperate with prosecutors, is to be sentenced Dec. 11 by U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird. If she approves the government's recommendation, his would be the stiffest sentence meted out to date in the Operation Casablanca case.

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