MIAMI (CBSMiami) — It was an investigation that spanned two continents and took two years that led to the bust of a massive money laundering ring.
In total, the probe involved 12 states and 17 countries cooperating under the leadership of agents in South Florida.
The accused kingpins had nicknames like Tony Montana, aliases like Pitbull and one even called himself after Neymar, the Brazilian soccer star.
On Thursday, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies unveiled “Operation Neymar.” It was a two-year undercover probe that blew the lid off the drug money laundering operations.
“Money laundering is a huge international enterprise which too often touches our Miami community,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
The alleged Mr. Big in the operation, Alfredo Castro-Santana, was taken down in Colombia.
Fabio Moreno and Alejandro Leon-Vega were nabbed in Miami on conspiracy to commit racketeering.
The group is allegedly linked to “El Chapo,” the Mexican cartel leader.
The money washers used a network of dollar changers to clean their dirty money and funnel it through local businesses, like, a cell phone company in Doral and a hair products firm in Opa-locka.
“As a business, you’re receiving funds or you’re interacting with third parties that are aiding into your specific business transaction, you are being… you’re in the middle of a black market scheme,” said John Tobon with U.S. Homeland Security.
None of the businesses used in the alleged scheme have been charged and it can’t be proved that they knew they were getting dirty money.
Authorities also seized about $1 million in cash during the investigation.
Of the 22 accused of money launders, 17 remain on the loose.
Investigators are calling this a billion dollar drug dealing machine. A machine very much out of order.