The proprietor of a group of San Diego-based money-transmitting offices pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to willfully failing to maintain an adequate anti-money laundering program for his business.
Baltazar Fitch of Chula Vista admitted during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin to accepting large quantities of cash from Mexican-based currency-exchange houses while knowing that the transactions possibly involved legal violations.
Fitch’s businesses provided currency-exchange and transmission services to clients in Mexico and the United States. In order to be able to deposit currency into U.S. bank accounts and wire those funds abroad, Fitch partnered with businesses that maintain accounts at various U.S. financial institutions.
According to prosecutors, Fitch was aware that the banks mistakenly believed that the cash deposits represented revenues or expenses generated from the sale of goods, when the proceeds actually were funds transferred on behalf of the money-transmitting businesses.
The defendant also knew a law known as the Bank Secrecy Act required him to develop, implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, but failed to comply with the regulations.
Fitch faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison along with a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain resulting from the admitted offense, whichever is greatest, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.
–City News Service