Agents Raid 2 Citicorp Units in Puerto Rico; Big Money Laundering Case Involves 6 Other Institutions

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Two offshore branches of the New York-based Citicorp were among seven financial institutions whose officers were swept up in a massive federal raid aimed at cracking down on money laundering in Puerto Rico.

In announcing the raids and arrests, the DEpartment of Justice said the operation was only the first in what it expects wil be a series of cases related to illegal money laundering in the island commonwealth.

Nearly 200 federal agents participated in the raid on Thursday, which was announced later in Washington and San Juan. It followed an 18-month investigation, code-named "Tracer," which was conducted by a federal interagency task force known as "Operation Greenback Puerto Rico."

Amon the 17 persons arrested were Reinaldo Ramos-Ramos, former branch manager of Citibank's Rio Piedras branch, and Maria Lloret de Cancel, manager of Citibank's Condado branch.

Mr. Ramos-Ramos was charged with two counts of conspiring to defraud the United States, one count of concealing material facts, and four counts of failing to file currency transaction reports, which are required under the Bank Secrecy Act for cash transactions of more than $10,000. He faces up to 35 years in prison and a $2.03 million fine if convicted on all accounts, the Justice Department said.

Ms. Lloret de Cancel was charged along with Hector Rey-Balaguer, who is not further identified by the Justice Department, with conspiring to defraud the U.S. She faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.

In New York, a Citibank spokesman said he can't say what the status is of Ms. Cancel. He said Mr. Ramos-Ramos had left Citibank earlier, but he was unable to say when or why.

"The charges concerned isolated activities of individuals, not Citicorp or its currency reporting systems," added John Maloney, the Citicorp spokesman. He declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., who is chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Puerto Rico "appears to be virtually awash in dirty money," and he announced plans to hold hearings.

The subcommittee is sending investigators to Puerto Rico next week, he said, and hearings will begin within the next several weeks. …