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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Feds Raid L.A. Fashion District Over Cartel Ties

Thousands of federal agents raided businesses in downtown L.A.’s Fashion District on Wednesday and seized an estimated $65 million as part of a crackdown on alleged sophisticated money-laundering operations by Mexican drug cartels. Nine people were arrested in the raids and stacks of cash were seized from Fashion District businesses, as part of the ongoing investigation called “Operation Fashion Police.” The businesses searched were suspected of using so-called “Black Market Peso Exchange” schemes to launder narcotics profits. “Los Angeles has become the epicenter of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Dugdale, who oversees the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. The raids coincided with the unsealing of three indictments, one of which alleged that the Sinaloa drug cartel used Q.T. Fashion Inc., a maternity clothing wholesaler in the Fashion District, to launder ransom payments. The cartel kidnapped and tortured a U.S. citizen after federal agents seized more than 100 kilograms of cocaine that he was responsible for distributing, according to the indictment. The victim was held at a ranch in Mexico where he was beaten, shot, electrocuted and waterboarded – while his relatives hustled to pay $140,000 in ransom for his release, a sum the indictment said was delivered to Q.T. Fashion. “Today’s arrests and searches should send a message to international drug cartels that the FBI and our partners won’t tolerate the exploitation of American business for the purposes of illicit financial transactions and that fund hostage-taking and the distribution of narcotics,” said FBI Special Agent Bill L. Lewis, assistant director of the bureau’s Los Angeles office, in a statement. The indictments also accuse three other Fashion District businesses – Gayima Underwear, Yili Underwear, and Pacific Eurotex Corp. – of laundering drug cartel money.

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