A recent grant to the Dallas Police Force will create a unit to investigate financial crimes associated with drug trafficking. According to U.S. authorities, nearly $30 billion in drug money leaves the U.S. for Mexico every year. The money is funneled through various means before reaching cartels in Mexico, where it is often used to bribe officials and otherwise further a cartel’s power and influence.
Money laundering is a key component of the drug trafficking trade. Proceeds gained from illegal drug transactions are reinvested in legitimate businesses or luxury goods. Income may be hidden through false receipts or the misrepresentation of income from legitimate sales and businesses. Offshore bank accounts and wire transfers are also frequently used to transfer money. Debit and credit cards may be maxed and then transferred across the border.
Historically, Dallas law enforcement has not focused much on money laundering as a means to convict drug traffickers. While police will seize readily-available assets, such as hidden cash, much of the local law enforcement efforts focus on arresting people in possession of illegal drugs. The DPD has also used wiretapping, gathering intelligence through infiltration and going after drug kingpins in their enforcement of drug laws.
A lawsuit brought by Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance against Western Union is the source of funding for the new three-unit force in the Dallas police. Western Union was forced to pay $91 million after an investigation revealed that drug traffickers were using the company to transfer large sums of illegally obtained cash to cartels in Mexico. All four states that border Mexico received some of the money.
Deputy Chief Christina Smith, commander of the narcotics division for the DPD, told the Dallas Morning News that “these are not going to be quick cases to work.” They will be long-term, detailed financial investigations. The DPD’s new $548,000 grant will go towards these investigations.
While local police are new to investigating money laundering related to drug smuggling, federal regulators have been focusing on the issue for years. The FBI, the IRS and the Department of Justice are just a few of the federal agencies that investigate financial crimes related to the drug trade. Federal regulators have recently also gone after financial institutions which allow the transfer of drug money out of the country.
Another weapon for law enforcement and prosecutors
Money laundering is another tool for law enforcement and prosecutors to use in the War on Drugs. Even simple possession charges come with the potential for severe consequences, but adding on financial crimes can lead to even greater sentencing. Dallas residents charged with money laundering or state and federal drug crimes should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights throughout criminal proceedings.