South Florida CEO charged in massive money-laundering case targeting illicit gold trade
24 Jun 2021

The owner of a transportation company that hauls gold around the country has been charged in a massive money-laundering case extending from Latin America to South Florida that is still shaking up the precious-metals industry four years after the initial indictment was filed in Miami.

Jesus Gabriel Rodriguez Jr., CEO of the Doral-based armored truck company Transvalue Inc., is the latest defendant to be charged in the multibillion-dollar conspiracy in which authorities say gold shipments were “likely” smuggled out of Venezuela through Curacao and the Cayman Islands with falsified paperwork to dupe U.S. Customs officials at Miami International Airport into thinking they were legitimate.

Rodriguez, 45, is accused of participating in a piece of the international smuggling scheme by helping coordinate more than $140 million worth of gold shipments designed to launder cash with alleged ties to criminal activity, federal prosecutors in Miami said. Rodriguez could not be reached for comment at his business on Wednesday morning. His defense attorney, Michael Band, declined to comment.

Rodriguez plans to surrender to authorities and have his first appearance in Miami federal court on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He is expected to get a bond.

According to a criminal complaint affidavit unsealed late Tuesday, Rodriguez used his experience and contacts to orchestrate the importation of thousands of kilos of illicitly sourced gold that was flown into the United States from Curaçao between March 2015 and September 2016. Curaçao, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has no gold mines.

Rodriguez is accused of conspiring with gold sellers in the Caribbean, though the yellow metal was “likely being illegally mined and smuggled out of Venezuela,” according to the complaint. Other possible sources include Peru and Colombia, which are rich in gold but rife with corruption in the precious-metal trade, according to U.S. authorities.

The buyers of the gold were co-conspirators based in South Florida and Latin America who earned commissions by procuring gold for NTR Metals, a Doral-based company whose three principal brokers were charged in a $3.6 billion money-laundering conspiracy in 2017, pleaded guilty and served prison time.

NTR Metals was owned by Dallas parent company Elemetal, which pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a strong anti-money-laundering program and paid a $15 million fine to the U.S. government. Most of the gold imported by NTR Metals was illegally mined in Peru and smuggled through that country or diverted through other South American nations, such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, according to the probe led by Homeland Security Investigations along with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.

By Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 23 June 2021

Read more at Miami Herald

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