LA the 'epicenter' of cartel money laundering
Federal authorities have seized at least $65 million in cash in a series of raids in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday. Authorities suspect the money came from Mexican drug trafficking.
Around 1,000 law enforcement officials swarmed the Fashion District to execute dozens of search warrants to businesses suspected of participating in the so-called "Black Market Peso Exchange."
Authorities say this kind of exchange is common with Mexican drug rings. It happens when drug trafficking organizations collect money through U.S. through established businesses to avoid suspicion of transferring money across the border.
One of the cases that triggered this investigation was a drug scheme related to the kidnapping and torture of a U.S. citizen who had fallen into debt with the Sinaloa Cartel. The cartel was using a Fashion District business to get ransom money for the release of the captive.
During the raid, only nine people were arrested, but the $65 million seized came from bank accounts around the world and is said to be a part of ongoing investigations.
Assistant Director of the FBI's Los Angeles Division said in a statement, the probe was meant to"send a message" to drug cartels that using American businesses for "hostage taking and the distribution of narcotics" will not be tolerated.
The statement called Los Angeles the "epicenter" of money laundering in the drug trade - something that has been heavily emphasized in local coverage of the incident.
But some outlets focused on the particular area where the crimes occurred. KNBC said in its headline the probe "targeted" the fashion district.
KTLA called the probe a "Fashion District Takedown" in its headline and noted the incident is being referred to as "Operation Fashion Police."
The American who was kidnapped is back in the U.S. after his family paid a $140,000 ransom. Those suspects arrested were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.