LOS ANGELES – Father and son Chinese immigrants have pleaded guilty in a case of suspected money laundering for Mexican drug cartels in the Los Angeles fashion district.
Xilin (SHE'-lin) Chen and his son, Tom Chen, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Los Angeles and are set to be sentenced in August.
The Chens were among nine people arrested when authorities raided the fashion district in September.
Though the arrests were announced together, the Chens aren't believed to be directly connected to the most serious case involving the Sinaloa Cartel and ransom payments for a hostage.
Federal prosecutor John Kucera says the Chens would take bulk cash from drug traffickers for garments, allowing the traffickers to ship the clothing to Mexico and resell it — all in an effort to avoid detection.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
A father and son plan to plead guilty to crimes stemming from an investigation into suspected money laundering for Mexican drug cartels in the Los Angeles fashion district.
Xilin Chen and his son, Tom Chen, signed plea agreements in federal court in Los Angeles this week, and a judge is expected to accept the deals at a hearing Friday.
The father and son were among nine people arrested in September after authorities raided businesses in the fashion district that were suspected of taking bulk cash funneled by drug cartels for clothing exported to Mexico.
Though their arrests were announced together, the Chens aren't believed to be directly connected to the most serious case involving the Sinaloa Cartel, which had $140,000 in ransom payments funneled through the fashion district for a hostage who was beaten and tortured in Mexico, prosecutors say.
The Chens' attorneys didn't respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Xilin Chen is agreeing to plead guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, unlawful procurement of citizenship and giving false papers to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Tom Chen is agreeing to plead guilty to giving false papers to the agency.
Prosecutors say the Chens are Chinese nationals with U.S. citizenship and that the eldest Chen owned two lingerie import companies. Both men face deportation upon conviction.
The plea agreements say the Chens might not have to spend any time in jail, despite the charges that Xilin Chen is acknowledging carrying penalties of up to 50 years in prison. His son's conviction would be punishable by up to five years.
Additionally, the Chens are agreeing to forfeit about $436,000 seized during their arrest and the proceeds from the sale of their properties.