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Man admits to involvement in smuggling $20M of cocaine

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SAN DIEGO – A Mexican national who arranged the shipment of $20 million of cocaine into the United States pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit international money laundering.

Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga, of Tijuana, admitted ensuring that smugglers were paid and managing the pick-up of bulk U.S. currency from drug dealers so the proceeds could be taken into Mexico, prosecutors said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the 28-year-old defendant admitted being responsible for smuggling more than 110 pounds, but less than 330 pounds, of cocaine into this country.

Contreras-Arriaga faces up to life in prison and a $10 million fine when he’s sentenced March 6 by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez.

A co-defendant in the case, Omar Ayon-Diaz, 38, recently pleaded guilty to the same charge. Prosecutors said Ayon-Diaz, also a Mexican national, owned currency exchange houses in Tijuana.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $49 million and forfeiture of $24.5 million he received in smuggled drug proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A third defendant, Joel Acedo-Ojeda, was sentenced earlier this week to 11 years in prison.

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