Florida Man Sentenced in Drug Cartel Money Laundering Arrangement

JM2 Auto sales, in Apopka, Florida are known for their customer service and “lovely people”. If you visit their Website you’ll find rave reviews written in both English and Spanish saying so. One satisfied customer wrote: “Do not hesitate going to this place. They have the best customer service and nice people in the area. The cars inventory is excellent for used cars”
However, that superlative “customer service” has also been linked to a money laundering scheme, resulting in the convictions of both the president and vice president of the car dealership.

Joel Torres, 40, the president of the dealership and his second in command, Eladio Marroquin-Medina, 30, were indicted in August of 2012, accused of violations relating to the laundering of marijuana sales proceeds. They were both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; 11 counts of evading reporting requirements and 11 counts of engaging in a monetary transaction of criminally derived property valued at more than $10,000. Additionally, the vice president was also charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.

The two car salesman’s involvement with one of Mexico’s most infamous drug cartels became apparent to law enforcement officials according to court documents. The Gulf Cartel has made the headlines on numerous occasions and in 2009, the U.S. government offered a reward of up to $50 million for the arrest of leaders of the criminal organization. In May, 2011, Mexican police did in fact arrest Gilberto Barragan Balderas, who was one of the leaders of the dynamic drug dealing organization. Barragan Balderas was also wanted in the U.S. and at the time the State Department was offering a separate $5 million reward for his capture.

For their part in the scheme Medina and Torres received money that originated from sales of narcotics as compensation for vehicles provided. These vehicles originating from their automobile showroom in Apopka were sent to associates of the Gulf cartel functioning in Texas and were similarly used by local members of the cartel operating in Florida. In one episode, during the activity of the conspiracy, one cartel associate conveyed more than $115,000 in cash to the JM2 dealership for the procurement of vehicles. This incidence transpired sometime between the dates of late October and mid-November 2010.

Medina, pleaded guilty, admitting that Torres came up with the plan to send cars to associates of the Cartel. He was sentenced to six years in February of last year following his conviction on charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Torrez was found guilty by a federal jury on December 3 and was sentenced by U. S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr. to 40 months of incarceration in a federal prison early last month. He was convicted of three counts of money laundering and 11 counts of failure to file the IRS Form 8300, which is a document required to be submitted for any cash purchases that exceed $10,000.

The investigation was spearheaded by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in conjunction with the Apopka Police Department; Orange County Sheriff’s Office; and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. Both defendants were prosecuted by AUSA’s Christopher LaForgia and Shawn Napier.

To read the latest FBI press release on the story, click here
The press release relating to the Torrez conviction can be found by clicking here posted on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Website.

Money laundering, federal narcotics charges, including the distribution of narcotics and laundering the proceeds as well as the failure to file IRS forms related to these charges are federal crimes. The consequences of a conviction for these crimes can be severe and can include prison terms of varying intervals. If you or a person you know or love is being investigated for or have been accused of these crimes, it is important to immediately contact a defense attorney with experience in these types of cases to assure the most favorable outcome possible under the law.

If you are looking for an experienced federal criminal defense attorney in the Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or West Palm Beach area, Mr. Cohen’s office can provide you with the skilled representation you need.

Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.

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