SAN DIEGO — The managers of a San Diego gold exchange business pleaded guilty Friday to federal money laundering charges.
Richard M. Owen, 49, and Jeffrey Morrow, 44, both of San Diego, also agreed to forfeit about $2 million in assets they acquired by laundering money through their business, Global Gold Exchange, LLC, which is also a defendant in the case, federal prosecutors said.
The charges came as a result of a multi-year investigation that involved “millions of dollars in suspicious transactions” through the Global Gold Exchange’s office and bank accounts.
The defendants’ plea agreement states that they laundered money from a number of illicit sources and fraudulently documented the activity as gold transactions.
Their money laundering activities included transactions with a “local cartel out of Mexico,” directing clients to lie to law enforcement and tax officials, as well as advising clients to mail Global Gold Exchange packages filled with heavy substances to mimic the weight of gold.
“Global Gold Exchange and its managers Jeffrey Morrow and Richard M. Owen accepted money from all sources regardless of lawfulness,” Nichole Cooper of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said. “They then subverted conventional financial institution systems by using fraudulent invoices, directing clients to mislead law enforcement and labeling it `a complete gold transaction.”‘
In addition the money laundering counts, Global Gold Exchange pleaded guilty to mail fraud, while Owen pleaded to unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 16. Owen faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, while Morrow faces a five-year maximum term.