Feds say Springs company at the center of drug money laundering scheme with possible ties to El Chapo Guzman

Published: Feb. 27, 2019 at 6:39 PM MST
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A Colorado Springs food distribution center is at the center of a drug money laundering scheme according to federal investigators. Also part of the investigation are several restaurants in Colorado Springs.

Details on what is being tabbed a "complex" scheme are laid out in a civil complaint recently filed in federal court. The complaint is asking for the forfeiture of more than $1.5 million in cash. Authorities believe several restaurants in Colorado and Wyoming were involved including Monica's Taco Shop, Taco Star and Albertacos. The alleged drug money tied to the scheme was spread out in a number of bank accounts and safe deposit boxes holding amounts ranging from about $5,000 to about $376,000.

The complaint goes on to state the investigation started in 2016 when a vehicle was purchased in Cheyenne, Wyoming using $10,000 or more in cash. Because of the cash amount, an IRS form had to be filled out. Multiple law enforcement agencies at the federal and state level suspected the money came from a sophisticated drug money laundering organization in Colorado, Wyoming, California and "elsewhere." At the center of it all, El Potosino Foods, an unregistered wholesale food distribution company that operates in Colorado Springs. El Potosino was used to launder drug money, according to the documents.

Authorities state the primary account holder for El Potosino is in the United States illegally. They identified him as 48-year-old Jose Aguilar-Martinez. The phone number for Aguilar-Martinez was linked to a DEA investigation tied to someone known to be a Sinoloa Cartel leader and "El Chapo" Guzman. It isn't clear where Aguilar-Martinez is now.

is one of the world's most notorious drug kingpins and could soon be living in southern Colorado. He is widely expected to serve his prison sentence at the Supermax facility in Florence.

The complaint states invoices created by El Potosino revealed the account holders working alongside Aguilar-Martinez and others falsified items and prices on invoices to account for cash deposits. The restaurants then deducted the cash deposits as a cost of goods sold.

In May of 2017 United States Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin, in the District of Wyoming authorized the installation of pen register trap and trace devices for Verizon cell phones tied to Aguilar-Martinez and possible associates. Authorities tapped the phones and were able to tie his number to other numbers of people connected to drug crimes. The complaint reads he was in frequent communication with people who had been arrested for drugs including heroin, cocaine and meth. In one case, Colorado Springs resident Isamar Gurrola was arrested in San Diego, California for possession of three kilograms of cocaine and four pounds of meth.

A search warrant was executed at El Potosino in June of 2018. Authorities found more than $35,000 in cash that they believe is drug money. No claims were ever made for the return of the money seized. The money was wrapped up in rubber bands which the complaint states is "consistent with the way that drug proceeds are maintained."

El Potosino Foods, LLC is not licensed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the State of Colorado to transport food. According to the complaint, the Spanish translation of “EL POTOSINO” is a term that translates to English as, “The one from San Luis Potosi, Mexico.” San Luis Potosi, Mexico is well known in narcotics law enforcement as being associated with various drug trafficking cartels involved in the importation of narcotics to the United States.

It isn't clear if authorities are going to pursue criminal charges. 11 News has a call into the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Wyoming for more information.