Because high-volume sales of illegal drugs can lead to the possession of large amounts of cash by drug dealers, strategies are needed to convert that illegal cash into funds that appear to be legitimately earned. Under federal money laundering laws, a violation could lead to a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years. In California and other areas, a popular way of changing money from illegal drug trafficking into apparently legal money is by funneling it through a business that does a large volume of cash sales.
Thus, a drug trafficking ring could work with the owner of a large nightclub that takes in thousands in cash for admissions and special concerts. The money could be distributed to the recipient as a legitimate return on that person's investment as a promoter of the business or concert. That general kind of setup is what is led to the charges that have been filed by federal authorities against a nightclub owner in Southern California, according to court documents regarding his recent arrest by federal authorities.
According to the acting special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office of the DEA, the dismantling of the El Rodeo Night Club operation makes it much harder for major drug organizations to do business in the area. The reference is to the alleged connection of the defendant to an unnamed major drug trafficking cartel that operates between Mexico and the United States. The special agent's assessment may be a bit optimistic, considering the sheer volume of other establishments that do high cash volumes in the Los Angeles area.
The court papers indicate that the charges may be relatively easy to establish because the defendant was recorded by undercover agents who actually delivered to the defendant what he believed to be drug trafficking money for laundering services. In some instances, recordings allegedly exist in which the defendant elaborately explains how money can be laundered through his California business and via real estate transactions. However, an experienced criminal defense counsel will pursue a thorough investigation that will expose any defenses that may exist against these complex charges.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Club owner laundered money in U.S.-Mexico drug trade, affidavit says", Matt Hamilton and Ruben Vives, Feb. 27, 2015