Drugs and Money: Laundering Latin America's Cocaine Dollars

By Robert E. Grosse | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

Stephen Saccoccia, 1988–91

A money laundering venture that rivaled La Mina was built by Stephen Saccoccia just after the downfall of the Raul Vivas/Eduardo Martinez laundry. In the late 1980s, Saccoccia began to operate a money laundering business through his gold and precious metals company, Trend Precious Metals, near Providence, Rhode Island. This business grew to the point in 1990 that it was able to take in over $150 million in drug cash during the year from three major Colombian drug traffickers and to move it into bank accounts and then out again into overseas accounts.

The precious metals business has proven to be an excellent cover activity for money laundering schemes because of the large dollar volume that can be involved in precious metals transactions and the apparent legitimacy of numerous transactions as one “plays the market.” In other words, a precious metals dealer may buy and sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold in a year in numerous transactions, show a minimal profit, produce limited business records that appear legitimate, and not raise suspicion.

Saccoccia had built a precious metals business in Rhode Island during the 1980s. This business was engaged mainly in the buying and selling of gold, coins, and precious metals such as silver and platinum. He and his wife, Donna, operated the business in the suburbs of Providence, while they began to build up an underground activity on the side.

Beginning in 1987, as far as law enforcement could determine, the business began to change to reflect the entry of a new type of client. This new client would deliver large quantities of cash in bills of a small denomination, in return for which Saccoccia’s companies would deposit the funds into bank accounts and transfer the bank account balances to other accounts in various U.S. cities and abroad in Colombia, Panama, and Switzerland. Saccoccia’s firms would

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