Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The Next Miami Operation WireWire Case: Alfredo Veloso

In June of 2018, we blogged about a series of cases that the Department of Justice announced as "Operation: WireWire." In particular, we wrote three pieces about the "South Florida Cases" where a Lebanese recruiter convinced people to set up shell companies, open bank accounts, and receive large wire transfers that were quickly sent overseas.  (See Operation WireWire: The South Florida Cases -- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

Some of the earlier cases included US v. Eliot Pereira et al; US v. Gustavo Gomez et al; and US v. Cynthia Rodriguez et al.  So far, at least 250 shell corporations in South Florida have been identified that can all be linked back to the Roda Taher Money Laundering Network.  Those recruited communicated with Roda Taher, who was known as Rezi or Ressi, via WhatsApp and Email, including the gmail account "rezimarket@gmail.com." 

On April 30, 2019, DOJ announced another related guilty plea.  This time three more related cases are linked under the name "USA v. Lugo et al."

Alvaro Lugo of Sunrise, Florida, Karina Rosada of Hollywood, Florida, and Alfredo Veloso are the main trio of defendants in these cases, with Veloso pleading guilty on April 30, 2019. 

Karina Rosado

Karina Rosado ran her shell company as "Karina Luxury Trade" through her address 4001 West Flagler Street, Apr 18, Coral Gables, Florida.  Karina received both her papers of encorporation and her IRS EIN number via email from Rezi in June and July of 2017.  On August 7, 2017, Karina opened a Bank of America account ending in 8775 with a $25 deposit.  On August 18th, she received a $105,000 wire from a Business Email Compromise victim scammed by impersonating a title company person.  On August 21st, Karina withdrew $7,500 in cash, and wired $44,700 to "Tianjin Shengfa Candle Co" at China Zheshang Bank and an additional $39,988 to "Jiangxi Textile Group Imp" at Bank of China on 21AUG2017.  She drained the rest of the account, $8,800, the following day.

On August 2, 2017, Karina opened a TD Bank account ending in 2712. 

She also opened a Wells Fargo account ending in 5271 the same day.  On September 20, 2017, she received a $32,900 wire from a second victim, and on September 21, 217, an additional $59,890 was attempted from a third victim, but was blocked by the victim's bank, who filed an IC3.gov complaint on October 8, 2017.  A fourth victim wired $17,609 to her Wells Fargo account on November 2, 2017.  She withdrew another $10,000 on November 6, 2017, and $17,690 on November 9, 2017, closing the account.

On November 13, 2017, Karina opened a JP Morgan Chase account ending in 3657, providing her business name and her true social security number.  She deposited $17,609 dollars to open the account, listing in the memo, her Wells Fargo bank account number "2846705271."

After an arrest warrant was sworn out on August 20, 2018, Karina surrended on August 27th.  She posted bail on September 10, 2018, and was declared a fugitive after failing to appear on December 20, 2018.  Like several of the previous WireWire mules, Karina attended Miami Dade College in Hialeah, Florida.

Alvaro Lugo

Alvaro Lugo opened a Florida shell company "Lugo Wide Trades" from his address at 11149 NW 80th Lane, Doral, Florida.  The address he used matches his home residence address according to Florida's Driver and Vehicle Information Database.  When the company filed for its EIN number with the IRS, the IP address used to do so was in Beirut, Lebanon, and matched the IP address used to request EIN numbers for several other shell companies that were part of this network.  (Roda Taher is from Lebanon.)

Lugo opened a Bank of America account ending in 4361, using his social security number and drivers license to do so.  On October 30, he received a wire from "a motorsports dealership" in the amount of $105,532.09.  On October 31, he received an additional $74,857.69 from another victim company.  Both of these companies filed complaints at IC3.gov.  On November 3, Lugo cashed out the account with a $180,486.36 cashier's check payable to Lugo Wide Trades, Inc.

On October 26, 2017, Lugo opened a JPMC account ending in 1705.  The account was opened with $50.  On November 2, 2017, Lugo's account wrote a $50 check paid to Rosado's account.

Lugo was sentenced on April 8, 2019 to 34 months in prison.

Alfredo Veloso

Veloso's company was Veloso Bulk Trading which was registered to the address 6611 SW 99th Avenue, Miami, Florida.  In addition to Veloso Bulk Trading, Alfredo ran several other businesses from this address, including Tri Reptiles, a reptile importing company.  He also ran a "kink pornography" business from the same address, "Alex Ace 305 Productions Inc" which used the main website "kink305[.]com".  "Alex" is part of a group of 76 porn-related domain names and at least eight of the mules he recruited were women he ment through his internet video business, who were also used to open shell companies and associated bank accounts for the network. 

Veloso Bulk Trade received incoming wires totaling more than $1,000,000 from four victims - two corporations, a law firm, and an individual.  Veloso withdrew $26,686 of the funds.

In Veloso's Plea Agreement, signed on April 29, 2019, he agrees to plead guilty to counts 1 and 4 through 8.  To wit: 

1. Conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of Title 18, USC section 1956(h) because he "did willfully with the intent to further the objects of the conspiracy, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with Alvaro Lugo, Karina Rosado, and others known and unknown, to knowingly conduct and attempt to conduct a financial transaction affecting interstate commerce, which transaction involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, knowing the property involved in the financial transaction represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, knowing that such transaction was designed, in whole and in part, to conceal and disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, and the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, in violation of Title 18 USC Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and all in violation of Title 18 USC Section 1956(h).  The specified unlawful activities were conspiracy to commit wire fraud, (Title 18 USC Section 1349) and Wire Fraud (Title 18 USC Section 1343).

Counts 4 through 8 are actually all Lacey Act offenses, related to smuggling reptiles through his "Tri Reptiles" company.

His Base Offense Level was an 8.  It goes up by 16 due to the volume of funds laundered (between $1.5 Million and $3.5 Million). +2 more for sophistication, and +2 more for being a section 1956 conviction, and +3 more because he was a "manager or supervisor, but not an organizer or leader, of criminal activity involving five or more participants."  That would give a 29, but he got a three level decrease for "demonstrating acceptance of responsibility."   He's likely looking at 63 to 78 months in prison.  The prosecution agreed to run the animal smuggling sentence, if any, concurrently.

(Veloso DID HAVE a reptile importing license from 2010 to 2014, as "Xtreme Reptiles", but he failed to renew his license and paid no taxes on his current reptile business.)  Veloso was "shipping large quantities of reptiles on a weekly basis." He made about $150,000 per year on his illegal reptile business, selling reptiles "in bulk" to pet stores around the country.