Alfredo Veloso, 43, of Miami, today admitted to opening bank accounts, and to recruiting others to open bank accounts, as a conduit for stolen funds in connection with a wide-ranging international money laundering operation for business email compromise and other cyber-schemes. Veloso also admitted to selling reptiles without a license, in violation of the Lacey Act.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Brian Swain, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, and David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast, Florida, made the announcement.
Veloso pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams to one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h), and four counts of violating the Lacey Act, that is, knowingly engaging in conduct that involved the sale and purchase of, and intent to sell and purchase, wildlife, that is, reptiles, with a market value in excess of $350.00, knowing that said wildlife was taken, possessed, transported, and sold in violation of and in a manner unlawful under the laws and regulations of the State of Florida, specifically, Florida Statute 379.3761, all in violation of Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(B).
According to court documents and statements, from April 2017 to December 2018, Veloso, together with co-conspirators Roda Taher a/k/a “Rezi,” Karina Rosado, and Alvaro Lugo, and others participated in a scheme to help steal more than $1.5 million dollars from individual and corporate victims, which proceeds were later laundered. The scheme involved recruiting “money mules,” including Veloso, who allowed their respective names and personal identifying information to be used by co-conspirators to incorporate a sham business through the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations, under such mule’s name. As part of the scheme, a mule would then open bank accounts at multiple banks in the name of his or her shell company. Several mules, including Veloso, later recruited and managed new money mules. To date, more than 200 money mules and money mule recruiters have been identified as part of this international money laundering network.
As stated in court records, a related cyberattack aspect of the scheme involved the creation, by co-conspirators, of email addresses that mimicked, but differed slightly from, legitimate email addresses of supervisory employees at various companies. The conspirators used these deceptive email addresses to send emails that appeared to be requests for payment of legitimate invoices or debts owed by the victims. The victims were deceived into transferring funds by wire into the bank accounts opened by the money mules and controlled by Veloso andthe co-conspirators. After the victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, Veloso, Rosado, and Lugo, under the direction of other conspirators, quickly debited thousands of dollars from the accounts through in-person withdrawals, ATM withdrawals, and debit card purchases. The co-conspirators also transferred funds to foreign bank accounts that co-conspirators controlled.
Veloso, Rosado, Lugo, and other co-conspirators kept a fraction of the proceeds as payment. For example, over a two-day period in April 2017, Veloso’s shell company, Veloso Bulk Trade, received incoming wires totaling more than $1,000,000 from four victims, which included two corporations, a law firm, and an individual. Of these funds, Veloso withdrew or spent approximately $26,686.
Veloso admitted that he recruited more than eight individuals to participate as mules in the money laundering scheme, many of whom were women he met through his kink pornography/adult film business. Veloso and his mules laundered between $1.5 to $3.5 million dollars.
Additionally, Veloso used his reptile business, known as Tri Reptiles and Xtreme Reptiles, to knowingly sell and ship wildlife in interstate commerce in 2018. His yearly reptile sales volume was at least approximately $150,000. Veloso acted as a reptile wholesaler, reselling hundreds of reptiles without obtaining the required Florida license.
At sentencing, on the money laundering count, Veloso faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain/loss. Veloso faces up to five years imprisonment, and a fine of $20,000, or twice the gross gain, on each count of the Lacey Act violation. Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Williams on July 8, 2019, at 3:00 p.m.
Lugo pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering on November 19, 2018, and on April 8, 2019, Judge Williams sentenced Lugo to 34 months in prison. Rosado is a fugitive and remains at large.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, USSS, and FWS in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa H. Miller.
In related cases in this District, more than thirty members of the money laundering network have been prosecuted and convicted. See United States v. Roda Taher, et al., 17-cr-60223-UU; United States v. Luis Pujols, et al., 17-cr-20702-JEM; United States v. Cynthia Rodriguez, et al., 17-cr-20748-JEM; United States v. Eliot Pereira, et al., 18-cr-20170-MGC; and United States v. Gustavo Gomez, et al., 18-CR-20415-UU. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jared M. Strauss, Dwayne E. Williams, and Lisa H. Miller prosecuted those cases.