Updated July 2, 2018 - 5:58 pm
A Las Vegas real estate broker was arrested Monday on charges that he flipped real estate as part of a money laundering conspiracy involving an international narcotics trafficking organization.
Luis Eduardo Rodriguez is accused of funneling drug proceeds by flipping properties in the valley to help the international organization, which has ties to Mexico, Italy and Hong Kong, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
A criminal complaint was filed Thursday in federal court against Rodriguez, who made an initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Peggy Leen. He is due in court in New York next week.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Ryan Norwood told the judge Rodriguez was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States since age 10. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in the 1970s and has worked as a real estate agent for 30 years.
The complaint alleges Rodriguez worked under the direction of Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez, the leader of a drug trafficking organization that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been investigating since July 2013.
“The actions of the accused illustrate the methods drug trafficking organizations utilize to infiltrate our communities and attempt to legitimize their criminal enterprise, but this arrest exemplifies the tremendous steps taken by law enforcement to uproot and remove them,” DEA special agent in charge David J. Downing said in a statement.
The complaint claims Rodriguez flipped at least three Las Vegas properties in 2016 for Rodriguez-Jimenez, the last of which was purchased with drug money for approximately $220,000 and sold two months later for roughly $226,000.
Rodriguez also is accused of recruiting people who would allow their identities to be listed with the state of Nevada as “managers” of shell corporations controlled by Rodriguez-Jimenez. In exchange for their identities, they were paid $1,000 monthly, officials said. The accounts were then used to move hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money.
Rodriguez-Jimenez pleaded guilty in June 2017 to laundering more than $250 million of drug proceeds on behalf of cartels in Mexico and Central America. His methods included using seemingly legitimate corporations, shell bank accounts and money couriers based in the United States and Europe, officials said.