- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Four men charged with running a scheme that laundered $60 million in Mexican drug money have been arrested in Southern California, federal authorities announced Thursday.

Authorities say the suspected ringleader, Gustavo Barba, 59, of Guadalajara, was arrested Tuesday night as he tried to enter the U.S. at a San Diego border checkpoint. He remained jailed.

Two men from Fullerton and Whittier and a merchant in the jewelry district of downtown Los Angeles were arrested Tuesday and Wednesday, authorities said.

The four, along with three men who remain fugitives, were indicted last July by a federal grand jury in Orange County.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday, contends that Barba ran a company, Barba International Inc., with offices in Los Angeles and Guadalajara that acted as a broker for drug money.

“The drug cartels have entirely too much U.S. currency or cash to transport to Mexico undetected” while legitimate Mexican businesses want to avoid fees and taxes they would owe if they wired money to the U.S. to pay suppliers and manufacturers, the indictment said.

Barba’s firm is accused of receiving drug money in dollars and, for a fee, used it to pay U.S. wholesalers for goods ordered by Mexican importers, typically jewelers, the indictment claimed.

Those businesses repaid Barba in pesos, which were then turned over to drug dealers, according to the indictment.

The system, known as the Black Market Peso Exchange, is used every year to launder millions of dollars while avoiding detection by banks and law enforcement, the indictment stated.

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