Two Mexican businessmen based in Miami were charged with conspiring to laundering money to “harbor” undocumented workers, according to The Miami Herald.
Martin Diaz and Enrique Guerra appeared Tuesday before a federal magistrate in Miami.
Authorities are accusing the two men of laundering cash through a Miami-Dade check-cashing business, a casa de cambio, which was reportedly cashing payroll checks of undocumented workers from local supermarkets.
These currency exchange businesses, authorities explained to the Herald, are often used to supply pesos to drug cartels that trade in dollars collected from their distributors. In turn, the casas de cambio sell the dollars to currency brokers who move the bulk cash across the U.S. border on cargo and commercial flights.
Diaz and Guerra are also accused of using a transportation company in San Luis Potosi, Mexico to move the bulk cash to the United States.
Prosecutors said the defendants had set up another business in El Paso, Texas, to assist with the currency shipments and control bank accounts in the United States.
According to the Herald, Diaz allegedly told a government informant who was wearing a wire that he had purchased U.S. dollars from various Mexican casas de cambio with pesos and that he established the exchange rate.
He also said he would package the dollars for transport to the United States and later would sell the money to check-cashing businesses, the Herald said.
According to an affidavit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents reviewed 44 currency import transactions by Diaz’s company, Enfoque Potosino, that showed it shipped $23.3 million from Mexico to the United States in five months.
The men then met with an undercover agent in Miami who was posing as a sugar cane businessman arranging another deal to pay undocumented workers.
Diaz pleaded not guilty while Guerra is set for arraignment March 28. Both were arrested earlier this month in Miami.
Diaz was assigned a court appointed attorney, an issue of contention with prosecutors, who argued that Diaz could afford his own lawyer.
Diaz’s current lawyer argued that his client handled large money transfers -- but did so legitimately.