Joint Law Enforcement Effort Uncovers Large-Scale Operation that Laundered More Than $1.6 Million and Shipped Drugs across Country
Phoenix, AZ (Thursday, December 12, 2013) - Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is today announcing the arrests of six members of the Sanchez Money Laundering Organization in Tucson and New York. Armando Robles Urrea, Conception Suarez-Montijo, Gladis Celaya-Reuelas, Noemi Suarez-Montijo, Frank Babcock, and Maria Yvette Sanchez-Arvizu were arrested. Luis and Julio Villagrana were spotted on Tuesday night, but fled from law enforcement and have not yet been picked up. The head of this organization, Maria Yvette Sanchez-Arvizu, is responsible for laundering over $750,000 in personal efforts alone.
The Sanchez Money Laundering Organization was involved in the laundering of drug trafficking proceeds through various bank accounts and a local Tucson casino. From approximately June of 2010, and continuing through May of 2013, this group laundered approximately $1.6 million dollars.
Tom Horne stated, “By working alongside other law enforcement agencies to aggressively pursue, arrest, and prosecute criminals such as these drug traffickers, we are sending a clear message that we will not tolerate the death, violence and chaos they bring into Arizona.”
“These arrests and indictments have closed the doors on this criminal drug enterprise, taking away their money, drugs and freedom,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “Drug traffickers who profit from the laundering of millions of dollars in drug proceeds can no longer feel safe in Arizona and beyond. DEA and our partners will continue to follow the money trail and bring justice to all those responsible for spreading poison in our communities.”
This investigation also discovered a large shipment of marijuana sent to the east coast by the group. In October of 2013, law enforcement intercepted an 84 pound load of pot that was sent via commercial shipping. After receiving a tip, a search warrant was served on the shipment, which revealed a Husky 60 Gallon Air Compressor that had been split open, filled with the drugs, then resealed and painted. The shipment was delivered to New York where it was intercepted by law enforcement at the home of the intended recipient.
The Attorney General’s Office has placed racketeering liens on 15 bank accounts belonging to the suspects. In addition, a racketeering lien has been placed on a Tucson home believed to be paid for with the proceeds of drug offenses.
Any property or cash forfeited as a result of this investigation will go towards supporting further law enforcement efforts targeted at investigating and prosecuting other racketeering offenses.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs, Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Pima County Sheriff’s Department and the Counter Narcotics Alliance.
Photos of those arrested are attached. We are also including pictures of Luis and Julio Villagrana, who are still on the run from law enforcement. If anyone has information concerning these individuals, please call 88-CRIME for Tucson callers or (520) 882-7463 outside Tucson; or DEA at (520) 940-0705.
All calls are confidential.