Vega, 35, who owned a local pharmacy under another person’s name that also sold medical supplies, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to three years in prison.
“They used Oscar Sanchez as a middle man,” Davidson, the prosecutor, said during Ruiz’s bond hearing in October.
Davidson described Caribbean Transfers as a sort of “Western Union” for money remittances. The company’s website says it specializes in remittance services to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other countries.
The FBI, which investigated Sanchez’s case along with agents from the federal Health and Human Services department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, suspect Caribbean Transfers’ founder is in the Dominican Republic.
As part of the money-laundering network, Sanchez collaborated with Perez and his associates at Caribbean Transfers, which controlled shell companies with bank accounts in Canada and Trinidad, according to court records. Caribbean Transfers, stymied by U.S. restrictions on remittances from the United States to Cuba, wanted to move millions of dollars to Cuba.
Caribbean Transfers had purchased more than 20 boxes of money orders, moving money in amounts less than $10,000 at a time to avoid having to declare the source of the funds under U.S. laws. The company used aliases, including the name “Bill Clinton,” according to court records.
But the process was “costly and time consuming,” prosecutors said.
Enter Sanchez, who helped them transfer larger amounts of money to Cuba.
“Benefitting both sides of the transactions, [Sanchez] was a financier for fraudsters and a capitalist for the Cuban banks,” Davidson wrote court papers.
For a fee of 1 to 1.5 percent, Sanchez matched up the two sides: One side led by Caribbean Transfers supplied millions in ready cash — generated by Cuban exiles’ remittances — to the Medicare fraud ringleaders.
Those criminals, in turn, sent checks or wired money drawn from their South Florida corporate bank accounts to the other side’s shell companies in Canada, records show. And those tainted proceeds were then moved by Caribbean Transfers as remittances to Cubans on the island.
“Through this process, [Perez] and his associates successfully moved millions of dollars of cash from the United States to Cuba without detection by U.S. law enforcement,” wrote Davidson, who worked on the case with fellow prosecutor Eloisa Delgado Fernandez.