Sinaloa Cartel member pleads guilty to smuggling $13M in drug proceeds

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SAN DIEGO – A Tijuana man pleaded guilty in federal court in San Diego Thursday to managing an international money-laundering organization that smuggled $13 million in narcotics proceeds from the United States to Mexico at the behest of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

Cesar Hernandez-Martinez, 29, admitted that he owned and operated currency-exchange houses in Tijuana that received smuggled drug profits from roughly April 2013 until November 2015, and further conceded that the money was from narcotics-trafficking activity in the United States.

According to court documents, Hernandez-Martinez, who was extradited from Mexico last September to face charges in the case, also coordinated couriers involved in smuggling currency out of the United States, ensuring that they picked it up from sources primarily located in Southern California.

The illicit funds stemmed from sales of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine smuggled into the United States from Mexico by a drug-trafficking organization that Hernandez-Martinez acknowledged was affiliated with the Sinaloa-based organized-crime organization, according to prosecutors.

In light of his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal, Hernandez-Martinez faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $26 million — twice the value of the funds he admitted to smuggling.

Hernandez-Martinez’s sentencing is scheduled for July 8.

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