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Attorney General Tom Horne: Former Arizona Department of Corrections Officer Convicted of Money Laundering

Joint Law Enforcement Effort Uncovers Bank Accounts across the Country with more than $1.5 Million in Drug Proceeds

Phoenix, AZ (Thursday, January 16, 2014) - Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is today announcing the conviction of Bernardo Varela, a former officer for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Varela, 35, entered a plea of guilty to charges of Money Laundering on January 8, 2014 in Cochise County Superior Court. He will be sentenced on February 14, 2014.

Bernardo Varela was indicted with various members of his family including his wife, Guadalupe Varela, his mother-in-law, Artemisa Aguayo, and brother-in-law, Jose Jesus Guerrero. 

The investigation, which was conducted by the Border Crimes Section of the Attorney General’s Office with assistance from the Douglas Police Department and the Arizona Department of Corrections, revealed that Jose Jesus Guerrero was responsible for the shipment of marijuana all over the country. The proceeds of these drug sales were knowingly being funneled into the bank accounts of his mother, sister, and brother-in-law, as well as other associates and family members. Deposits of large amounts of cash were being made in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Ohio and withdrawn in Arizona by these family members and associates. 

On January 18, 2013, Bernardo Varela was interviewed by investigators of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. During this interview, he admitted opening a bank account at the direction of his brother-in-law and that he knew the money running through this account was the proceeds of illegal activities. Immediately following this interview Mr. Varela resigned from his post at the Arizona Department of Corrections.  

Various family members of Jose Jesus Guerrero also opened bank accounts and knowingly assisted in laundering the proceeds of drug sales. A number of individuals involved in this investigation have been already been convicted of Money Laundering; including Artemisa Aguayo, Guadalupe Varela, and Juan A. Smith. Criminal proceedings against Jose Jesus Guerrero are ongoing.  

Vehicles and cash were seized and any property or cash forfeited as a result of this case will go towards supporting further law enforcement efforts targeted at investigating and prosecuting other racketeering offenses. 

This case was investigated by the Border Crimes Section of the Arizona Attorney General’s office, with assistance from the Douglas Police Department and the Arizona Department of Corrections.