Bank pleads guilty in $94 million money laundering scheme

MIAMI -- The Great American National Bank of Dade County and one of its loan officers have pleaded guilty to four felony counts for laundering more than $94 million from drug traffic, U.S. Attorney Stanley Marcus says.

The bank was scheduled to go to trial this week but pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Eugene Spellman Monday to four counts of failure to file currency transaction reports with the Internal Revenue Service. The reports are required by law for transactions involving $10,000 or more in cash.


The plea was entered by Barnett Banks of Florida, which acquired Great American after the events charged in the indictment.

Bank employee Carlos Nunez Monday pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to provide money laundering services for narcotics-related organizations through cash deposits and wire transfers. The charges against Nunez and the bank are part of a series of federal indictments and informations returned in December 1982, March 1983 and on Monday. All are the result of 'Operation Greenback,' an 18-month federal investigation into money laundering.

'Greenback represents our efforts to penetrate and break apart major organizations that are moving billions of dollars of narcotics money every year,' Marcus said. 'If you follow the money, it will lead you to the principals, sometimes more effectively than following the drug shipments.'

The indictments charged that between January 1980 and February 1981, Great American Bank, through three former employees, conducted 406 currency transactions totaling about $94 million without filing currency reports.

The government agreed to dismiss more than a dozen remaining charges against the bank, and agreed the bank be fined no more than $500,000.

The employees all lost their jobs in 1981. They include Lionel Paytuvi, vice president of the bank's installment loan department; head teller Nunez, who later worked in the installment loan department under Paytuvi; and head teller Elaine Kemp, who worked under Nunez' supervision.

Paytuvi pleaded guilty last July and has yet to be sentenced. He remains jailed awaiting trial on another case.

Ms. Kemp was scheduled to plead guilty today, a spokesman for Marcus' office said.

Nunez accepted cash deposits, sometimes delivered in shoe boxes, from two companies, Interfil, Inc., and Latina Export and Import Inc., and from Isaac Kattan and his partner Carlos Octavio Piedrahita, the indictments said.

In exchange for the cash, Nunez issued cashiers checks disguised as loan proceeds to the drug dealers, or processed the money through foreign and interstate accounts, Marcus said.

Nunez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines up to $500,000. He also has agreed to cooperate with the government in other money laundering and drug investigations, Marcus said.

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