Owners Of Miami Export Business Sentenced For $100 Million Unlicensed Money Transmitting And International Money Laundering Scheme
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that LUIS DIAZ JR. and LUIS JAVIER DIAZ were sentenced to eight months and four months in prison, respectively, for their roles in funneling more than $100 million through the U.S. financial system on behalf of various foreign businesses based predominantly in Venezuela. They did so through their Miami-based import/export company, which, for nearly five years, the defendants also used to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. LUIS DIAZ JR. and LUIS JAVIER DIAZ were convicted of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and international money laundering following a jury trial in November 2017 before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III, who also imposed today’s sentences.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “This father-and-son duo used their small for a large-scale illegal money transmission and money laundering operation. By skirting the anti-money laundering safeguards required of licensed institutions, the defendants moved more than $100 million through U.S. financial institutions. Today’s sentence is a sign of the seriousness of these crimes and our Office’s commitment to prosecute them.”
According to the Indictment, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence presented at trial:
Between 2010 and 2016, LUIS DIAZ, JR., and LUIS JAVIER DIAZ used Miami Equipment and Export Company (the “Company”), a company they owned in Doral, Florida, to effect the transmission of at least $100 million on behalf of entities outside the United States, mostly located in Venezuela, to bank accounts in the United States and elsewhere, in exchange for a fee. During this time, the Company was not registered with the State of Florida or the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a component of the United States Department of the Treasury, as required by both state and federal laws applicable to money transmitting businesses.
Using unlicensed money transmitting businesses like the Company enables entities and individuals to move money into and through the U.S. financial system while avoiding licensed U.S. financial institutions that monitor for suspicious activity and report it to U.S. authorities, including through suspicious activity reports, or SARs. Instead, by going through unlicensed entities like the Company, foreign businesses ensure that suspicious patterns of transmissions will not be detected and reported as potential money laundering activity or other financial crime.
Through their unlicensed money transmitting business, LUIS DIAZ JR. and LUIS JAVIER DIAZ enabled a number of foreign businesses to move money into and around the United States. For instance, the defendants used the Company to transmit over $100 million into the United States on behalf of KCT, a large Venezuelan consortium of construction companies, and other entities located in Central and South America. After they received these funds from KCT or other companies, the defendants received instructions concerning where to send the money as well as fake invoices and contracts purporting to set forth a valid business reason for these payments. The fake invoices and contracts made the payments appear connected to legitimate business services being provided to the Company, such as consulting or engineering services. In this manner, the defendants sent money on behalf of KCT and other companies to U.S. and foreign bank accounts of shell companies located around the world, Venezuelan government officials, KCT employees in Venezuela, and others who had no relationship with the defendants or the Company. For all of these transmitting activities, the Company received over $1 million in fees.
In addition to the prison terms, LUIS DIAZ JR., 76, and LUIS JAVIER DIAZ, 51, both of Miami, Florida, were sentenced to two years of supervised release. The amount of forfeiture will be determined at a later date.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, DEA, the Englewood, New Jersey, Police Department, and the Border Enforcement Security Task Force.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward B. Diskant, Daniel M. Tracer, and Benet J. Kearney are in charge of the prosecution.