US drugs raid in LA nets $US90m
15 HOURS AGO SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 6:56PM
RAIDS in the fashion district of Los Angeles have led to the seizure of $US90 million ($A97.38 million) - including $US70 million of it in cash - in a massive crackdown on Mexican cartels' attempts to use international trade to launder money from US drug sales, federal authorities say
THE raids on Wednesday came after three separate federal indictments in the biggest investigation to date into trade-based drug money laundering, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in Los Angeles.
About 1000 law enforcement officers fanned out across the city's downtown to search dozens of businesses suspected of taking bulk cash funnelled by drug cartels for clothing exported to Mexico.
Nine people were arrested in the raids, and authorities were searching for four others accused in the scheme, including three in Mexico, federal prosecutors said.
Since Mexican authorities tightened financial regulations in 2010, US officials say drug cartels have sought new ways to launder proceeds from sales of cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs in the US and are increasingly turning to international trade.
Los Angeles is a shipping point for narcotics and also a hub for traffickers to consolidate proceeds once the drugs are sold, said Robert Dugdale, chief of the criminal division at the US attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Officials believe money laundering is prevalent in the city's 3000-business fashion district because of the sheer volume of trade with Mexico, he said.
During the sweep, agents searched approximately 50 businesses and seized massive amounts of cash stored in cardboard boxes and duffel bags, officials said.
Kent Smith, executive director of the LA Fashion District, said most businesses in the district are legitimate and the area generates more than $US10 billion a year in economic activity, according to a 2009 study. He also said most businesses sell clothing within the United States
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