Tuesday, October 31, 2017

San Diego: The rise and "fall" of the man who bought planes for the Sinaloa Cartel

The Rise and "Fall" of the man who bought planes for the Sinaloa Cartel

It was late 2011, and Vicente Contreras Amezquita was on his way home, after a long day, at 41 years old, he had spent more then a decade in his business.  He was originally from Sinaloa, moved to Tijuana as a youth, and began living and working in the United States in the early 2000's.  

It was late afternoon, and there was likely traffic on the 5 South, the interstate that runs parallel to the 5 North, a traffic model of interstate commerce in Southern California.  The product comes in through San Ysidro, and leaves on the 5 North.  The money, the guns, the runners, head towards Tijuana on the 5 South.  

Vicente had money, 96,000 in cash, in his trunk, in a cardboard box, and 5,000 on his person.  The 5,000 was his commission. It had been picked up in Los Angeles, earlier that day.  Amezquita's phones, he had multiple, were being intercepted by federal agents at this point, as well as those of his closest associates. He was being watched, as he drove, as he worked, as he lived. 
Money seized in December 2011

They pulled him over for a traffic violation, and he called his wife, Elizabeth Fregroso, indicted in July 2015 with Amezquita, and others.  She remains a fugitive, as authorities allege she was an active participant in the complex money laundering scheme, of which her husband was the lead defendant.  She cursed when he told her an hour later the money had been seized, and that the police had brought in drug dogs to examine the U.S currency stuffed in a box, in his trunk.

This wasn't the first time he had been here. In early 2000, Amezquita was stopped going into Calexico with 27,900 dollars. It was hidden in bags behind the car radio, and he claimed it was for the sale of an airplane, and he felt safer with it on him. The case was rejected, and Amezquita was released. 

Amezquita, now 46 years old, pled guilty on October 11, 2017, after spending two years in custody, after his July arrest. The charges against were sprawling, across a 5 year period, he was said to have laundered over 3.5 million dollars, and purchased 35 planes, mostly Cessna models 206 and 201, for the transport of drug shipments.  This was done through his companies Aeropartes Baja, or Vevke Corparacion, and a complex network of buyers, brokers, sellers in Mexico, and the United States.  His attorney claimed he started the business from his living room, selling airplane parts online.

Like many money laundering schemes, this one starts simple, similar to the ones unsealed in Chicago in 2015, linked to Sinaloa Cartel traffickers, exchanging gold bars.  Money, from drug shipments from trusted wholesalers in Los Angeles, usually, would bulk currency to Amezquita, meeting in parking lots, fast food spots, grocery stores.  The money was often in boxes, and simply put inthe trunk or backseat of a vehicle. 

Then, the bulk cash was distributed to members of Amezquita's crew, who deposited the cash into bank accounts across the country, including Arizona, Texas, and Michigan, and Georgia.  Note, all states are major Sinaloa trafficking hub, perhaps much more so, from 2007-2012, when this investigation was ongoing.  

The cash was structured, and changed into different accounts, eventually landing on ones that Amezquita had, or controlled, he, maintained 46 known bank accounts.  At this point the cash was used to purchase the planes.  The money wired into the accounts of the broker, or seller, or straw purchaser of the planes.  Amezquita's coconspirators included two Colima based brothers who owned an airplane parts business, and Hector Hernandez, who owned a Torrance based business, Pacific Coast Aero, and was a airplane broker.  He provided cash and facilitated the sale of planes with laundered money. He pled guilty in 2017 in San Diego.

Plane connected to investigation, purchased by Amezquita and associates
Amezquita planes, and traces of them, and him, sometimes turned up in Mexico. One was seized in Yaqui, Sonora in May 2011 when elements of the Mexican Army seized 6 planes ysed in marijuana trafficking. The last known owner of one of the small Cessna's was Amezquita.  In February 2012 when Chapo Guzman was considered a ghost, an elusive phantom of Sinaloa, Mexican Marines and elements of the US authorities moved to catch him in Los Cabos, BC.  He escaped, on a plane, from a seaside rented mansion, in what became part of his legacy. 

Left behind, were documents linking Amezquita to the purchase of planes, listing him as the seller of an airplane in the possession of Chapo Guzman associates.  Chapo's personal pilot, or one of them, was also recorded on an intercepted call on on of Amezquita's phones, during the investigation.

Federal agents began to tighten the noose around Amezquita around fall 2011, when he, and the circle he dealt with began to loose money and product, on an increasingly regular basis.  The seizure of the cocaine stained 104,000 in November 2011 was one.  Earlier in the month after a Baldwin Park money pick up, task force agents on a related case raided the home of the man Amezquita had met.  Inside the home they found multiple firearms, 140,000 in cash, and 40 kilos of cocaine.

In December 2011, agents followed Amezquita to El Monte, California, where he received 250,000 in cash, concealed in a cardboard box.  The agents again pulled over Amezquita, in San Diego, and seized the cash.  Again, the cash had the strong chemical odor, and tested positive for cocaine. In a moment of arrogance, or defiance, Amezquita vowed to get the money back.  He did not contest the seizure.

After the seizure, he contacted a known associate, who had coordinated the drop off, and met him in Calexico, after explaining he believed his phones were compromised.  He drove erratically and in a manner consistent with counter surveillance techniques, he finally met at a Starbucks, where agents observed his conversation, described as "intense".

The investigation continued, but what transpired between 2012 and 2015 when the indictment was unsealed and Amezquita, and his associates were arrested is largely unknown.  Some, including his wife, remain fugitives, believed to be in Mexico.   For his part, he remained in custody since the July 2015 arrest, and was scheduled to go to trial, as February, before deciding to plead guilty, in March 2017.

He was sentenced October 12, 2017, in front of District Judge Michael Anello.  He plead to money laundering conspiracy, and related charges, and was sentenced to five years. His attorney insisted the prosecutors had not proven their case, regarding that the money being laundered came from drug trafficking. He implied there were other illegal activities in Mexico, such as kidnapping, oil theft, and extortion, where they money could have derived from. His attorney, Frank Ragen, also represents Jose Archeiga Gamboa, aka "Chino Antrax", who despite pleading guilty in July 2015 is still awaiting sentencing.

Amezquita's words to the court, (as reported by the San Diego Union Tribune's Kristina Davis), and the judge, after his sentencing are perhaps worthy of noting "None of this was done with any malice. I saw it as something like my daily work. I apologize if I was wrong.  I'm remorseful and I have learned my lesson".  He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.  He will be out before 2020.


Sources: Zeta Tijuana, The San Diego Union Tribune, (Article by Kristina Davis "Former Chula Vista Airplane Broker gets prison for heading money laundering ring") 

26 comments:

  1. Amezquita is one of many ants working in every major city adjacent to the border. Ironic that papers were supposedly connected to El Chapo but this little unsophisticated launderer will likely have a very nice nest egg that his wife continues to grow from Mexico when he gets out in 5 years.

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    1. 6:09 And she might get whacked,the wife if she stays in Mexico (too much $$ and product lost).If there's any money left they will get it out of the wife.

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    2. 6:09 the wife will wait for him, her crica and the Sancho will not wait for shit, they have not waited during the time served, Mista Contreras has like 2 years to be free, must have talked.
      Obviously La Chapa Needs no airoplanos when he has invented the Ruyere Border with so much tunneling,
      there must be some trumped up charges somewhere here.

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  2. No wonder why the engagement of such is becoming appealing for some. Giving lenient
    sentences is a walk in the park.
    With the expectations of a fruitful outcome to enjoy the rewards once released.

    Something is definitely wrong with this legal system. If this is a continuous cycle of discipline received. Don’t expect this drug epidemic to ever cease.

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    1. 7:02 if you pay attention you can see it is all a scam to rob the drug traffickers of all our clean laundered cash for the airplanes sold and then "recovered", real harsh penalties would stop the scam cold and the dealers would have to go begging to sell their planes much cheaper in mexico and recover much less money and planes.

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    2. U are probably right. Do make a point.

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    3. Interesting take 2:42 you are probably right.

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  3. Caro quintero was pronounced as taking a leadership role withing cds alongside of el mayo by the d.e.a. I cant believe that the sinaloa cartel accepted this fucking relic in its ranks. El mayo dont need to share the throne with anyone thats not his family or el chapos family or maybe el azuls family or the coronels leijas or gastelum the palmas. This families were big in the sinaloa cartel. Quintero was number 3 in the old guadalajara cartel under felix gallardo and fonseca carrillo.

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    1. It seems that Caro Quintero runs his own group, in coordination with what remained of the Beltran-Leyva's, if you look at the El Cadete charges....They also have all been named as complicit in the kidnapping of Los Chapitos, the Resistance (so to speak) Los Damasos, Tito Beltran, El Cadete, and Caro Quintero, allegedly.

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    2. 7:36 You are right . He should share , he should just kill the sonofabitch . Or Quintero should kill him . I feel better when these scumbags die . You sound like a cheer leader for this shit . We will get Quintero and Mayo . They will die locked up in the USA or a DEA agent will pull the trigger on them . I would rather see them die old locked up . I'm a vengeful person when it comes to these low lifes .

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    3. Caro quintero is old af and hes a total hyprocrite remember his video saying "ohhh no im not living that life style again and blah blah blah"

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    4. 6:59 just like he is still whining about how he didn't kill camerena but everyone knows he did

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    5. J is correct, Caro hooked up with the remnants of the Beltrans, plus some sierra families like the Payans and Valenzuelas. The most important part of RCQ’s new network is his links to CJNG; there are photos of him with Jalisco bosses and if you look at the expansion of CJNG in Nayarit, they picked up right where the BLs working for RCQ left off.

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  4. I believe the trype of planes he bought should read Cessna 206 and 210 and not Cessna 201. There is not a Cessna 201 to my knowledge but cessna 210 is very popular and familiar in Sinaloa for some reason.

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  5. Apologies for being off subject,I have a question:

    A while back there was a story here with a video of a man hitting one of his underlings with a baseball bat because of owed money. He also threatened to kill his child son next time. Does anybody know the aggressor's name??

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    1. Víctor Hugo López. Arrested in Donna,Tx. - Sol Prendido

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    2. I believe he was arrested..but do not quote me

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    3. 6:40 Y quién es ese pendejo?

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  6. mexican government swindles 400 million. just the tip of the iceberg. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/mexico-400-millon-swindle-interview-animal-politico-tania-montalvo

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  7. Sounds like a DEA shakedown..."you make it, we take it" Fortunately he was eventually arrested and sentenced and not killed with everything he lost.

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  8. Thats it 5 years. Where do i sign up.

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    Replies
    1. Like every golden lucrative opportunity in life , you have to be at the place at the right time. Networking and rubbing shoulders with people who make money. Just never step on no one's toes.

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  9. These men just want a peice of the action and not deal with corporate America 9-5 enslavement. The US establishment will nip you in the bud if they even consider you a threat in the narcotic industry. The man was just being an entrepreneur in his craft and juicing it. I mean 5,000k commission for a one day operation. Shit I'm in the wrong business.

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  10. Thanks for wrapping up this story J. It seems like this guy was still hustling, with the US govt. on him like glue, and he'll still be alive after a fairly short vacation.

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