Drugs and Money: Laundering Latin America's Cocaine Dollars

By Robert E. Grosse | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

The Santacruz-Londoño Organization, 1988–90

The story of this cartel would require a book in itself, and the full range of money laundering activity likewise would be quite a tale. The activities described here are ones that were uncovered by law enforcement and traced carefully through the details—but certainly hundreds of times this amount of money laundering also was carried out by the Santacruz-Londoño organization and has not met the light of day. The money laundering venture that was uncovered led to the seizure and eventual forfeiture of about $U.S. 58 million in bank accounts around the world.

Jose Santacruz-Londoño was known as one of the leaders of the Cali-based cocaine cartel, beginning as early as 1979 and ending “officially” with his arrest and imprisonment in 1995. His colleagues as leaders in the Cali cartel included the Rodriguez brothers, Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orajuela. Santacruz was first indicted by U.S. authorities for cocaine distribution in New York in 1985 and was subsequently indicted in other cases. He remains a fugitive from U.S. authorities to the present, although he is currently imprisoned in Colombia.

In 1989 and 1990, his organization became involved in a money laundering scheme that authorities were able to penetrate, and it is this scheme that makes up the heart of this chapter. In addition to the complex web of money movements that constitutes this laundering venture, it is an interesting example of the use of wire transfers to try to convert cocaine revenues into legitimate, or at least laundered, forms in far-flung locations.

The cast of characters in this story is fairly extensive, from the cocaine kingpin and his family to smurfs moving street-sale revenues into bank accounts in the United States. The main participants in the scheme include Jose Santacruz-Londoño, his father-in-law Heriberto Castro-Mesa, his wife Amparo Castro de Santacruz, and his daughter Ana Milena Santacruz. These family members

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