Black market peso scheme alleged in an indictment

Two men and the import-export company they allegedly used to move millions of dollars linked to illegal activity from the United States to Mexico have been indicted on federal charges of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and structuring cash transactions.

According to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury Feb. 13, the three defendants received large sums of cash and worked with peso brokers in Mexico to illegally convert the dollars to pesos.

The three defendants named in the 93-count indictment are:

• Peace & Rich Import, Inc., a wholesale distributor of silk flowers and other goods, located in South El Monte;

• Chaur Hwan Lin, 66, of San Marino, the president and co-owner of Peace & Rich; and

• Antonio Pareja, 53, of San Gabriel, the manager of Peace & Rich.

Lin and Pareja ran Peace & Rich as an informal money transfer system that, according to the indictment, “was involved in facilitating the transfer of money domestically outside of the conventional financial institutions system.” An investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles determined that Lin and Pareja used Peace & Rich to receive large amounts of cash derived from illegal activity.

The cash – tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the indictment – was typically delivered by couriers working in conjunction with a peso broker in Mexico.

In a black market peso exchange scheme, a peso broker works with an individual engaged in illegal activity, such as a drug trafficker, who has United States currency in the United States that he needs to bring to Mexico and convert to pesos, according to the indictment. The peso broker finds business owners in Mexico who buy goods from vendors in the United States, such as Peace & Rich, and need dollars to pay for those goods.

The peso broker arranges for the illegally obtained dollars in the United States to be delivered to the United States-based vendors, such as Peace & Rich, where they are used to pay for the goods purchased by the Mexico-based customers. Once the goods are shipped to Mexico and sold by the Mexico-based business owner for pesos, the pesos are turned over to the peso broker, who then pays the drug trafficker in Mexico.

The indictment alleges that Peace & Rich took in large amounts of cash and conducted transactions without being registered as a money transmitting business and without filing currency transaction reports, which are required when a business accepts cash payments of more than $10,000. Lin and Pareja allegedly disbursed cash as directed by a peso broker in Mexico to couriers for delivery to other United States-based businesses on behalf of their Mexico-based customers.

Additionally, Lin allegedly structured cash deposits – or, made a series of deposits that were less than $10,000 – to avoid the filing of transaction reports by the financial institutions where the deposits were made.

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