A bookkeeper for a Los Angeles Fashion District import-export textile company linked to a money laundering scheme to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars that came from drug traffickers was sentenced Thursday to three months of home detention for failing to report currency transactions over $10,000.
Alma Villalobos, 56, of Arleta, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt to pay a $1,000 fine and serve two years of probation.
Villalobos pleaded guilty a year ago to one felony count of conspiring to structure cash transactions for Pacific Eurotex in downtown Los Angeles.
“My expectation is that this will be an aberration in your life,” the judge told Villalobos at the conclusion of the hearing.
In court documents, the government said Pacific Eurotex and its principals started laundering drug money in 2012 and continued to do so up until a raid two years later. Prosecutors said participants in the case would receive cash they knew was illegal from unknown third parties in payment for open invoices of goods Pacific Eurotex sold, which was part of a black-market peso exchange system of trade-based money laundering.
To keep the activity secret, the company owned by brothers Morad “Ben” Neman of Westwood and Hersel Neman of Beverly Hills kept two sets of books, court documents show. The second unofficial set of books kept track of the cash received from the drug cartels and concealed that cash from the company’s accountants to avoid paying taxes on the income, prosecutors said.
Morad and Hersel Neman were sentenced in December to 24- and 18-month federal prison terms, respectively, followed by six months of home confinement, for their roles in the scheme to launder money for international drug cartels.
Pacific Eurotex itself was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay a fine of $400,000 for its conviction on charges of conspiring to launder money and conspiring to structure monetary transactions with a domestic financial institution.
Pacific Eurotex received, laundered and structured about $370,000 in bulk cash delivered on four separate occasions over two months in 2013 by an undercover agent posing as a money courier, according to court documents. The company laundered the money after being specifically advised by government agents that bulk cash payments were frequently derived from illegal activity and that it was required to report cash transactions involving more than $10,000 in currency.
In total, 384 deposits totaling nearly $3.1 million were divided into increments of less than $10,000 to prevent Wells Fargo from filing a currency transaction report with the U.S. Treasury Department, according to court documents.
Villalobos denied involvement in money laundering or the black-market peso exchange system.
“She was a very minor player,” her attorney, Mark A. Byrne, told the court.