A 54-year-old Arleta man is set to be sentenced Thursday for his role in a black-market “hawala” money laundering scheme that transferred about $4.5 million on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel and their drug trafficking affiliates.

Sucha Singh pleaded guilty in downtown Los Angeles to charges contained in a three-count federal indictment that charges him and 21 other defendants with conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said the illegal scheme spanned the world and involved operatives in Canada, India, the United States and Mexico who laundered drug trafficking proceeds generated from multi-pound sales of narcotics for and on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel and others. The laundered cash is alleged to have either been transported to the Sinaloa Cartel as profits or reinvested in additional drugs to be sold and distributed in the U.S. and Canada.

The 2014 indictment specifically alleges the use of a “hawala” network, which prosecutors contend transferred more than $4.5 million in narcotics proceeds and was involved in the trafficking of 64 pounds of cocaine and nearly 90 pounds of methamphetamine.

Hawala — the Arabic word for change or transform — is an international underground money remittance system based on trust among its participants that allows financial transactions without leaving a paper trail. The necessary trust and long-established connections between brokers are typically based on familial, ethnic, religious, regional and cultural grounds.

Singh pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder in 2016 to money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. The charges carry a combined possible sentence of up to 25 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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