A man who laundered nearly $2.5 million on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel and took part in threatening two people and their families, in order to recoup stolen drug money, was sentenced this week to five years in federal prison. Amaya Nava is the first defendant to be sentenced in connection with the money laundering organization.

According to his plea agreement, he was tasked with regaining money from a man who had stolen funds from a bank account, the organization controlled. Amaya Nava took the man and one of the man's family members to multiple banks in San Diego and Imperial counties in order to withdraw money to repay the organization. During this endeavor, Amaya Nava received phone calls from another defendant who told the victims "that their families have been located and they better not do anything stupid, and that people were watching them and were prepared to act,'' the plea agreement states.

Amaya Nava got the pair to withdraw thousands of dollars from different banks but was arrested in San Diego before more funds could be withdrawn. He was later charged with extortion and money laundering. Prosecutors say the organization at the heart of the scheme took cash delivered by drug traffickers across the United States and laundered the funds through shell companies before transferring the money to Mexican bank accounts.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says a two-year investigation into the organization resulted in the seizure of $1 million from its bank accounts, nearly $200,000 in bulk cash and hundreds of pounds of narcotics.

"Mexican drug cartels cannot succeed without money launderers,'' U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement. "Our office will prosecute not only those who traffic drugs but also those who enable the drug traffickers through sophisticated shell corporations and multiple banks accounts.''

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