Decade-Long ICE/HSI Investigation Climaxes for Transnational Sinaloa Cartel Drug Trafficker’s Money Laundering
Photo: Roberto Gallegos-Lechuga
SAN DIEGO – A Federal Prison sentencing was the well-earned ending for a Sinaloa Cartel associate.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security (HSI) investigation – lasting nearly a decade – gave their just reward to Roberto Gallegos-Lechuga (39), of Sinaloa, Mexico for his role in supervising and managing couriers who helped smuggle bulk cash across the U.S.-Mexico
Gallegos-Lechuga, who’d pleaded guilty in July 2021 to conspiracy to commit international money
laundering, received a sentence of more than 15 years in federal prison on January 10th. “Today’s
sentencing is the culmination of years of relentless work by Homeland Security Investigations and its
partners targeting the Sinaloa Cartel,” announced HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance all move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees – including overseas locations in 53 countries – represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
The HSI investigation, which commenced in 2012, peered into a money-laundering organization
operating in both the U.S. and Mexico. The coordinates were discovered when individuals working on
behalf of the cartel arranged ways for large amounts of bulk currency to be smuggled via So Cal ports of
HSI described the money-services businesses and currency brokers used to recruit nationwide money
couriers who transported the bulk cash for delivery to stash houses in Mexico – where the currency was
exchanged at a favorable rate from U.S. Dollars to Mexican Pesos. In addition, The cartel would use
fictitious entities to deposit repatriated U.S. currency into U.S. banks.
Varied seizures over that 10-year probe into one of the most violent criminal organizations on earth
included over $6 million in illicit currency, 336 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 gallons of liquid
methamphetamine, 235 pounds of cocaine, 10 pounds of heroin, and 120 pounds of marijuana.
Gallegos-Lechuga, who was extradited from Mexico to San Diego in August 2018, is one of eight
individuals who pleaded guilty for their roles in this conspiracy – and were handed federal prison
sentences. Nearly 20 additional individuals also pleaded guilty for their participation, resulting in various sentences.
“This investigation highlights HSI’s dedication to go after both cartel drug trafficking and money laundering activity,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “The sentencing sends a
resounding message to transnational criminal organizations that HSI and our partners are unyielding in
our pursuit of justice.”
“Violent transnational criminal organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel pose a danger to our communities,”
said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“They export dangerous narcotics to the United States and their illicit proceeds corrupt our financial
system. We will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. I want to thank the Government of Mexico for extraditing Lechuga-Gallegos to the United States to face criminal charges. Through such
partnerships, we will attack and work to dismantle dangerous drug cartels.”