Chula Vista Man Sentenced in Money Laundering Scheme

The airplane broker helped drug cartels launder millions over several years

A Southern California man who sold airplanes to drug dealers in a money-laundering scheme has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

The Chula Vista airplane broker helped drug cartels launder $3.6 million over five years by selling them 35 small planes for exportation to Mexico, authorities say.

Vicente Contreras-Amezquita, 47, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to money laundering charges.

Contreras-Amezquita said he accepted bulk cash deliveries at various locations from strip malls and fast-food restaurants to parking lots and aircraft hangars.

In a plea deal, he acknowledged hiding the origins of the money, arranging to deposit the cash in dozens of bank accounts in several states before it finally was used to buy the planes. The locations included Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Georgia.

"Living the high life on drug proceeds will lead to a crash and burn," DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman said in a news release.

A co-defendant who pleaded guilty awaits sentencing but Contreras's wife and other alleged accomplices remain fugitives.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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