Money laundering indictments

Wednesday, July 14th 2004, 5:38 am
By: News On 6

Five people are behind bars in connection with a million-dollar drug bust and money laundering scheme. Some say it's the largest "ever" in northeast Oklahoma.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg has more on the operation that spanned from Mexico to Tulsa.

The indictment that was unsealed has five names, Roberto, Alfredo, and Estaban Herrera and David Romero and Lorena Miranda. It details a complex scheme where hundreds of pounds of marijuana was allegedly smuggled into Oklahoma, much of it compressed and hidden in cutouts in stacks of tile.

Assistant US Attorney Allen Litchfield: “the indictment alleges in October of 2001, 500 kilograms of marijuana was brought into the Tulsa area for distribution, alleged distribution in the Tulsa area.”

The feds say that Romero and Miranda later opened nine different accounts at banks all over town, where they allegedly deposited the proceeds from drug sales, but always in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid currency reporting requirements. Then came the next step.

"The indictment says the group funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through a pair of Tulsa check cashing businesses called Casa Herrera and made it look as though checks were being cashed by legitimate individuals.”

Authorities say some checks were made payable to Casa Herrera itself, some were cashed under names of various people, the US attorney hasn't said if they're real or fictional. Regardless, the feds say the money really wound up in an account controlled by Casa Herrera. From there they say the money gradually made its way into yet another account at Rogers State Bank, which was its final stop, nearly $2-million worth, where they say it was co-mingled with other funds in a further effort to confuse investigators.

"It's one of the more complex money laundering indictments that I’ve seen since I’ve been an Assistant US Attorney working for the task force, it's pretty substantial."

We asked how the alleged scheme compares on a scale of one to ten. "It's a ten."