(CN) – Federal authorities seized more than $40 million in gold, silver and gemstone jewelry bought with laundered drug money from the United States, the Justice Department said. The assets weighed 10 tons and included about 468 boxes of gold and silver jewelry, gemstones and watches.
The DOJ claims Yardena Hebroni and Eliahu Mizrani, through the companies Speed Joyeros and Argento Vivo, laundered millions in U.S. drug money by exchanging it for Colombian pesos and using it to buy goods in the Colon Free Zone, the biggest free-trade zone in the hemisphere.
Hebroni and her companies allegedly coordinated and received drug money from the United States through cashiers and bank checks, cash pick-ups and wire transfers. Speed Joyeros and Argento Vivo did more than $100 million in business annually, with primarily Colombian-based customers laundering millions of dollars in drug money through bulk purchases of jewelry, the DOJ claims.
Hebroni, Mizrahi and both companies pleaded guilty to money laundering.
The government claims this is the first U.S.-Panamanian investigation that’s resulted in a Colon Free Zone company being seized and brought to justice in the United States. Speedo Joyeros and Argento Vivo were heavily involved in the black market peso exchange, according to court documents.
The DOJ says the forfeited jewelry will be liquidated and the sale proceeds placed in its Assets Forfeiture Fund.
The seizure and investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s offices in Long Island and Panama, and the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The cases were prosecuted by Justice Department trial attorneys Laurel Loomis Rimon, Armando Bonilla and Eric Snyder.