Police Raid Results In Nine Arrests In L.A.'s Fashion District

By McCarton Ackerman 09/12/14

Joan Rivers had nothing on the LAPD's "Operation Fashion Police."

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This wasn’t a Joan Rivers red carpet critique: Federal agents raided garment businesses in the fashion district of Los Angeles, arresting nine people and seizing $56 million in a sting referred to as “Operation Fashion Police.”

Nearly 1,000 federal and local law enforcement officials swept into the area on Wednesday morning after it was discovered that garment businesses in the area were helping drug cartels get profits from U.S. drug sales back into Mexico. Warrants were issued at 40 locations in the area, including 19 storefront businesses and six warehouses. Officials discovered $10 million hidden in duffel bags during one particular raid of a Bel-Air home.

One particular business, QT Fashion, allegedly laundered the cartel money as a ransom payment for a drug-dealing relative who was being held hostage in Mexico by the Sinaloa Cartel. They gave the cartel $140,000 by funneling the money through 17 other businesses. The three owners of QT Fashion have since been arrested, but the hostage is now safe and back in the U.S.

Two members of one family connected to two businesses, Yili Underwear and Gayima Underwear, were arrested after accepting money from an undercover officer posing as a drug trafficker. Meanwhile, four people connected with Pacific Eurotex Corp. were arrested and charged with conspiracy to launder money and illegally structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements.

“Los Angeles has become the epicenter of narco-dollar money laundering with couriers regularly bringing duffel bags and suitcases full of cash to many businesses," said Robert Dugdale, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. While he made it clear that most of the businesses in L.A.’s $18 billion garment Industry are perfectly legitimate, he said the recent arrests “portend a potentially troubling trend.”

Smuggling cartel money across the border certainly isn’t new, but drug lords have had to become smarter in how they do it. Federal officials have stepped up enforcement for vehicles crossing the border. A Chinese toy company also got involved with laundering money for cartels, but that business has since been shut down after the owners were arrested.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.