Drug Blood On Toy Company's Hands
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"Reach for the sky!" Five people were arrested yesterday in a money laundering scheme that channeled at least $6 million in Colombian and Mexican drug money through an LA-based toy company. The owners of Woody Toys, Jia Hui Zhou and Dan Xin Li, and three company employees were arrested on charges of evading federal reporting requirements for financial transactions. The money funneling had occurred between 2005 and 2011, where Mexican toy dealers bought US dollars made off drug sales from currency brokers in a “black market peso exchange,” enabling the traffickers to get rid of drug money—and the toy dealers a more favorable exchange rate to purchase toys in the US. Woody Toys would receive the money from the dealers via courier or bank deposits, but authorities say they never filed paperwork when receiving deposits of more than $10,000, and intentionally structured bank deposits in smaller increments to avoid doing so. The defendants now face up to five years in prison on evading federal reporting requirements and 20 years on money laundering charges. But just in case they feel like working with drug traffickers again, ICE homeland security has some advice: “They can’t walk up with duffel bags of money and continue with their business,” says Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE homeland security investigations in Los Angeles. “They have to find creative ways to convert that money into pesos and launder it so it doesn’t look like illegal proceeds.”