Central American Drug Cartel Uses Churches As Fronts
EL UNIVERSAL (Mexico)
SAN JOSÉ - The Costa Rican capital is where Los Charros, a Central American drug cartel with links to to one of Mexico's biggest mafia families, picks up cocaine to transfer through Central America. And Los Charros has found a way to launder money to cover up its trafficking revenue: by purchasing and registering vehicles and property in the name of Evangelical Churches, El Universal reports.
At least one religious foundation was identified by tax authorities as actively taking part of the cartel network.
Several of the cartel's leaders were sentenced to 27 years in prison in Nicaragua this past March, and their prosecution shed some light onto the cartel's methods. Los Charros is run from Guatemala, and its members include nationals of several Central American countries.
One member, captured in May 2011, was a judge in Nicaragua and is suspected of being a key piece in a network of document forgery. Los Charros also used hardware stores, construction companies and transportation companies to launder its drug cash.
The cartel mainly transported cocaine that was bought in Costa Rica and then transported through Nicaragua and into Guatemala in fleets of cars and trucks, El Universal reports. It is believed to work in association with Mexican drug cartels.