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New OCCRP Report: Narco Files: The New Criminal Order

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Organized crime in Latin America has changed quite a bit since the days of Pablo Escobar.

Today, OCCRP and over 40 media partners revealed what this modernization looks like in the Narco Files: The New Criminal Order  — the largest investigative project of its kind to originate in Latin America. 

See what the OCCRP network uncovered 👇

After obtaining over 7 million leaked emails from the Colombian prosecutor’s office, reporters found rare details about the inner workings of transnational criminal gangs and law enforcement’s efforts to dismantle them. In their stories, reporters explored six main themes:

  • Criminal Empires investigates how organized crime groups have fanned out around the globe, permeating economies, corrupting authorities, and expanding their reach across borders.
  • Narcotics Inc. looks at how criminal gangs are innovating and evolving their business models in the face of new economic incentives and opportunities for experimentation.
  • Drowning in Drugs dives into the murky world of commercial ports that have become a hotbed of criminal activity, from Antwerp and Rotterdam to Gioia Tauro, Guayaquil, Santa Marta, and Limón.
  • Dark Money investigates underground flows of illicit drug profits and the financial professionals who help enable these crimes.
  • Green Crimes exposes the environmental impact of organized crime, and how their activities are destroying wildlife, polluting rivers, and threatening protected areas.
  • Police and Thieves looks at the role of law enforcement agencies who are on the front lines in the fight against organized crime — but sometimes become part of the problem.

If you want to learn more about how we reported this investigation, you should join our upcoming OCCRP Discussion. You can access webinars like these by becoming an OCCRP Accomplice.



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Woman sentenced to five to nine years in prison on cocaine, firearm charges

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Audrey Thompson was sentenced on June 24 to five to nine years in prison on drug and firearm charges in Brunswick County Superior Court.

Per District Attorney Jon David’s office, 64-year-old Thompson from Southport was investigated by the sheriff’s office starting in January of 2023.

“For approximately one year, the Sheriff’s Office purchased cocaine from Thompson on multiple occasions. The investigation concluded with a search warrant(s) being executed on her residence and other properties on Trails End Road in Southport N.C. Narcotics officers recovered three stolen firearms from her residence,” the DA’s announcement states.

She pleaded guilty to six counts of sell/deliver cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon



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Ex-US Marine turned cartel confidant sentenced for smuggling tons of cocaine into the U.S.

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Angel Dominguez Jr., grew up in the border town of Roma, Texas after his family migrated from Jalisco, Mexico when he was 8 years old.

Along the way, he got dual citizenship and joined the Marine Corps after high school.

While stationed in North Carolina in November 1994, he flipped his car and rolled off a bridge into a creek as he tried to avoid a deer on the road.

Dominguez was badly injured, but his two daughters, ages 3 and 4, died in the crash

His injuries were so severe that the Marines gave Dominguez a medical discharge, ending his military career and dream of becoming a member of an elite special forces unit.

After leaving the military, Dominguez struggled to find steady work.

Years later, he was arrested in Texas while trying to cross the border with a load of marijuana. He pleaded guilty and spent 13 months in federal prison.

Upon his release, he went to work for his brother-in-law in the construction industry, but the work dried up as the housing market plummeted.

In 2007, according to his attorney, Dominguez moved to Mexico where he met people who smuggled marijuana and cocaine into the U.S.

Dominguez developed relationships with cartels throughout Mexico and Latin America, had he reportedly used his smarts and large bribes to work with Mexican lawmakers and those in law enforcement.

“He has never made an excuse for the direction he took, only to say that after the accident, he stopped caring. He was numb,” according to defense attorney Nancee Schwartz, who made these comments in a written sentencing document. “He didn’t think or care about consequences because he had experienced the worst.”

Earlier this week, 28 years after the crash, Dominguez now 50, was sentenced to 195 months in prison, according to a news release issued by the Department of Justice.

Prosecutors described him as the “unquestioned leader” of an underworld group called “El Seguimiento 39” also known as “The Company” or “El Seg 39.”

Prosecutors say Dominguez ran a network that transported drugs into the United States and laundered money for several rival drug cartels in Mexico including the Sinaloa Cartel, Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, Los Zetas and others.

“Wiretap evidence demonstrates that he controlled every aspect of his organization,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Martin wrote in a sentencing memorandum, according to a story published in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Dominguez did rely on co-conspirators to negotiate and control drug routes, find sources of supply, and prevent law enforcement from thwarting his trafficking, but ultimately he gave the orders to each of these co-conspirators.”

U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes noted the “staggering” amount of cocaine that Dominguez smuggled.

Dominguez and his group reportedly smuggled, on average, 10 tons of cocaine into the United States per month while laundering at least $10 million of drug proceeds back into Mexico on a monthly basis.

“Today’s sentence sends a message that the leaders of even the most powerful criminal organizations will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

But Dominguez’s attorney wrote the claims against his client were never supported by any evidence offered by prosecutors.

Dominguez was arrested in Mexico back in 2016 and extradited to San Diego.

https://wgntv.com/news/ex-marine-turned-cartel-confidant-sentenced-for-smuggling-tons-of-cocaine-into-the-u-s/



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Fourteen People Charged in International Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Scheme

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NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 30, 2024

SAN DIEGO – A federal grand jury has charged 14 people with participating in an international multi-million-dollar cocaine trafficking and money laundering scheme.

According to an indictment unsealed today, plus additional information in a related search warrant, the alleged leader of the trafficking organization, Jesus Ruiz-Sandoval, managed the smuggling and distribution of large quantities of cocaine from Tijuana into the United States, and the movement of cash proceeds back to Mexico. Ruiz is a United States citizen who fled the U.S. for Mexico several years ago, in violation of his terms of supervised release for a prior federal drug-trafficking crime (Case number 08-cr-00713-DSF in the Central District of California).

The search warrant said Ruiz worked closely with other co-conspirators, including John Joe Soto and Esteban Sinhue Mercado, who are also U.S. citizens currently residing in Mexico. The alleged conspiracy involved smuggling large multi-kilo quantities of cocaine from Tijuana through San Diego to Los Angeles. From there, commercial trucks transported the cocaine from Los Angeles to the Mid-Atlantic for distribution in the Eastern United States. Commercial trucks also transported cash proceeds from the cocaine sales back across the United States to Los Angeles, where it was packaged and loaded into cars that couriers drove through San Diego and into Tijuana, delivering the proceeds to Ruiz there. To date, investigators have seized more than $5 million in cash proceeds and more than 130 kilos of cocaine.

“This office targets sophisticated international trafficking cells by hitting them where it hurts ­— their wallets,” said U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath. “Following the money takes you to the heart of a trafficking organization and this prosecution aims to drive a stake through it.” U.S. Attorney McGrath expressed her gratitude to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Hawthorne Police Department, which provided invaluable partnership in this investigation.

“One of the pillars of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is to identify and dismantle international drug trafficking organizations who poison our communities,” said Christopher Davis, Acting Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “Throughout this investigation and with the unwavering support from our law enforcement partners, we further discovered their involvement in a money laundering scheme. This indictment serves as a warning to those believing they can remain undetected by HSI – our message is clear. You will be found and you will be brought to justice.”

“This indictment marks a significant milestone in our relentless pursuit of justice against transnational criminal organizations. By leveraging collaborative efforts, CBP alongside our partner agencies are able to target the root causes of crime and dismantle organized criminal enterprises,” said Sidney K. Aki, Director of Field Operations for San Diego Field Office. “Ultimately, this unified approach promotes public safety, reduces the flow of illegal drugs and laundered funds, and strengthens the resilience of communities against these threats.”

This investigation is one of two into Ruiz. Several months after a grand jury in San Diego first indicted Ruiz, a separate grand jury in the Central District of California indicted him and others for a separate, but similar, international trafficking scheme. See United States v. Sandoval et al., 24-CR-008 AB (C.D. Cal.). The prosecutions of Ruiz and others indicted in both cases will proceed in coordinated fashion.

Another defendant, Ricardo Miranda-Beltran (aka Ricardo Miranda-Benitez), appeared Tuesday for his initial appearance on the indictment. Miranda was arrested in the Eastern District of California and ordered detained, and then ordered to appear in San Diego on these charges.

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 23cr1574 AJB                                        

*Jose Ruiz-Sandoval                                      Age: 45                                   Mexico

*John Joe Soto                                                Age: 43                                   Mexico

*Esteban Sinhue Mercado                              Age: 24                                   Mexico

Brittany Mangrum                                          Age: 36                                   Van Nuys, CA

Liliana Ruvalcaba-Gonzalez                          Age: 25                                   Anaheim, CA

Yessenia Lazo                                                 Age: 23                                   Los Angeles, CA

Ricardo Miranda-Beltran                               Age: 57                                   Bakersfield, CA

Edwin Rafael Hernandez                                Age: 32                                   Pasadena, CA

*Denotes fugitives who are not in custody

**Additional defendants’ names are redacted and not listed here

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a) & 846

Maximum Penalty: Life in custody, $10 million fine, and a life term of supervised release

Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 952, 960, and 963

Maximum Penalty: Life in custody, $10 million fine, and a life term of supervised release

Consp. to Launder Monetary Instruments – Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(2)(B)(i) & (h)

Maximum Penalty:- Twenty years in custody, $500,000 fine or twice the laundered amount, and a 3-year term of supervised release

Bulk Cash Smuggling – Title 31, United States Code, Section 5332

Maximum Penalty: Five years in custody, $250,000 fine, and a 3-year term of supervised release

AGENCIES

Homeland Security Investigations

Customs and Border Protection

Los Angeles Police Department, Transnational Organized Crime Section

Hawthorne Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks



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