SAN DIEGO (AP) — A lawyer who laundered millions of dollars in drug money for a violent Mexican drug cartel was sentenced Friday to 15 years and eight months in federal prison.
Juan Manuel Álvarez Inzunza, 40, told a federal judge in San Diego, California, that he was “deeply remorseful” and thanked the U.S. government for his capture. The Mexican citizen said his 2016 arrest ended his criminal career and helped make sure “my conduct didn’t get any worse,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Álvarez Inzunza was sentenced on a money-laundering conspiracy charge. In 2016, he was arrested in Mexico, where he was held until his extradition to the U.S. last year.
With credit for time already spent in custody, he was likely to spend nine more years in prison and then will be deported to Mexico, the Union-Tribune said.
In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Álvarez Inzunza acknowledged that he laundered money for the Sinaloa Cartel from at least December 2013 to August 2015.
Álvarez Inzunza was orphaned and raised by poor relatives in Culiacán, the capital of Mexico's Sinaloa state. He had a private law firm there when, about a decade ago, “the wrong client came in, and he listened to them" and began his criminal career, defense attorney Frederick Carroll said at Friday's hearing.
Álvarez Inzunza would relay orders from cartel bosses to an associate in Colombia who would coordinate couriers to pick up cash in the U.S., the prosecution said.
During an investigation, U.S. federal agents found that Álvarez Inzunza had organized the transfer of millions of dollars from the United States to Mexico and other countries and they were able to seize at least $3.5 million in cash, including large amounts of drug money from Boston, Detroit and New York, authorities said.
Álvarez Inzunza was “trying to provide for his family” but ended up “destroying his family,” his attorney said.
At his sentencing. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw acknowledged that Álvarez Inzunza was remorseful but said his actions helped fund the violent cartel, which doesn't “exist without money."
“You’re complicit in all of this activity — it’s not just the money laundering,” Sabraw said.