California Man Laundering Money for Mexican Drug Cartel Gets Nearly 5 Years in Jail
A California man was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds for a Mexican drug cartel using bitcoin.
Gregory David Werber, 58, was accused of laundering drug money for a Mexican drug cartel that distributed heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in several states, the Department of Justice said in a statement released on Friday.
"There is no way to judge how many people have been hurt by this drug cartel and all of the people who suffered from drug addiction... You were helping violent people do violent things," U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan said during the sentencing hearing.
According to acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman, those who collect cash and send it over international borders to drug suppliers are vital players in feeding the addictions and damaging the communities.
Werber was identified as the key money launderer for a drug distribution network. It was discovered during an 18-month investigation between 2017 and 2018.
This Mexican drug cartel allegedly distributed crystal methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills in Western Washington counties, namely Pierce, Kitsap, King, Skagit, and Snohomish.
Gregory David Werber's Money Laundering Activity for a Mexican Drug Cartel
Gregory David Werber was among the more than 30 people arrested in December 2018 in connection with a multi-state drug trafficking network led by Mexican drug cartel members in Mexico.
The drug trafficking organization allegedly used a Manhattan Beach, California cryptocurrency business to launder and transfer money to Mexico.
The owner of that business was Gregory David Werber, who allegedly used his bank account to deposit drug cash and convert it to bitcoin to be sent to drug conspirators in Mexico.
The drug busts that occurred from Dec. 5 to 6 were large in scope. More than 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers executed 51 federal arrest warrants and search warrants on more than 35 vehicles and 50 buildings.
Aside from Washington, this Mexican drug cartel was also allegedly operating and spreading heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and meth in Utah, New York, Arizona, Oregon, California, and Tennessee.
Authorities confiscated thousands of fake fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills, other drugs, and weapons during these operations. "It's a trans-national criminal organization... responsible for importing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine as well as laundering drug proceeds back to Mexico," said Keith Weis, DEA Special agent for Seattle, as reported by My Northwest.
The investigation started with the Bremerton Police Department's controlled buys of heroin through Facebook. In addition to coded cell phone conversations, authorities said many Mexican drug cartel members also communicated via Facebook messenger.
U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said that fentanyl overdoses are growing at a peaking rate in Washington State. Hayes lauded the DEA and their federal state and local law enforcement partners who developed the evidence that led to the arrest of those involved, Lynnwood Today reported.
Dr. Caleb Banta-Green of the University of Washington echoed Hayes' sentiment. Banta-Green told MyNorthwest that there was a 70 percent increase in deaths related to fentanyl in 2017.
The doctor added that people would often try to use pills instead of heroin as it is seen safer, which is historically true. However, it contributes to the rise of drug overdoses across the country.
Weis noted that fentanyl is being produced behind the curtains, noting that organizations can produce the drug around the clock. Weis added that it is much cheaper than actually growing and producing opium for heroin.
Records showed that Gregory David Werber has prior federal convictions for credit card and passport fraud, transporting stolen goods, and smuggling, as well as prior state convictions for drug trafficking, fraud, grand theft, and escape.
The California man's criminal conduct, in this case, started within months of his 2017 release from state prison after a nine-year sentence for a drug distribution conviction in Ohio.
The Department of Justice said that Werber is forfeiting $69,000 in cash to the government, and he will be on three years of supervised release following his 58-month prison sentence.
WATCH: Mexico's Cartels Are Deadlier Than Ever Despite the Pandemic - From Vice News
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