Paraguayan national admits passing unlicensed funds in international money laundering investigation | USAO-NJ

TRENTON, NJ — A Paraguayan man today admitted his role in facilitating an international money laundering conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Rodrigo Alvarenga Paredes, 35, pleaded guilty in front of Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson of federal court in Trenton to an information charge accusing him of operating an unlicensed money transfer business. Paredes had previously been charged by complaint with co-defendants Cynthia Tarrago-Diaz and Raimundo Va of conspiracy to launder money. Alvarenga made his first appearance before Chief Justice Wolfson today and pleaded guilty to the information. He was released pending sentencing.

According to documents filed in this and other cases and statements made in court:

From March 2018 to November 2019, Alvarenga owned and operated a foreign exchange business in the Republic of Paraguay, which was neither licensed nor registered to operate as a money transfer business under the laws of the United States. United States or the State of New Jersey. . Until January 2019, Tarrago was a member of Congress from Paraguay, and in late 2019 publicly announced his intention to run for mayor of the capital district, Asunción. The investigation revealed that Tarrago and her husband, Va, had agreed to accept at least $2 million in US currency from two people who posed as narcotics traffickers, believing that the money came from illegal drug trafficking. . Tarrago and Va agreed to launder the funds through an international network of accounts to conceal the illegal source of the proceeds.

Tarrago and Va traveled to New Jersey and Florida several times and accepted approximately $800,000 in US currency from the alleged drug dealers, and had those funds channeled through the currency exchange firm of Alvarenga; Using his unlicensed business, Alvarenga then had these funds transferred through accounts located in multiple countries and eventually arranged for the funds to be transferred to an account maintained by the alleged drug traffickers. To conceal the illicit source of the funds, Tarrago, Va and Alvarenga coordinated to generate fraudulent invoices indicating legitimate business reasons for the transfers of the laundered funds.

Unbeknownst to Tarrago and Va, the currency they accepted from alleged drug dealers was not actually illicit drug proceeds, but was provided by two undercover FBI agents as part of a secret investigation into the money laundering network. Alvarenga, operating under the auspices of his exchange company in Paraguay, facilitated the money laundering of Tarrago and Va by having undercover funds flow through his money exchange business and returned to the account. undercover FBI, knowing that the transactions violated the laws of the United States. and regulations.

The unlicensed money transmission count to which Alvarenga pleaded guilty carries a potential maximum legal sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or double the gross amount of any pecuniary gain that any person derived from the offence; or twice the gross amount of any pecuniary loss suffered by the victims of the offence, whichever is greater. Tarrago and Va were each sentenced to 33-month prison terms. Alvarenga’s sentencing is scheduled for November 9, 2022.

US Attorney Sellinger credited FBI Special Agents, Newark Division, Trenton Resident Agency, under Special Agent in Charge Jesse Levine, with the investigation that led to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance in this matter.

The government is represented by Assistant US Attorneys R. Joseph Gribko of the Trenton Criminal Division and J. Brendan Day, attorney in charge of the Trenton branch of the US Attorney’s Office.