A former Paraguayan congresswoman and her husband pleaded guilty this week for their role in an international money laundering scheme after the couple came to the United States to launder $2 million from drug traffickers, only later to learn they accepted money from undercover FBI agents.
Cynthia Elizabeth Tarrago, 41, and her husband, Raimundo Va, 45, pleaded guilty this week in Trenton federal court to conspiracy to commit money laundering after they were arrested in New Jersey last year.
The two face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
While Tarrago was serving in office, authorities said she and her husband agreed to accept at least $2 million in United States currency from two individuals who represented themselves to be narcotics traffickers with the intent of the laundering the money for them.
The couple traveled to New Jersey and Florida on multiple occasions, meeting with the purported drug traffickers and accepting more than $800,000. Authorities said they laundered the money through their network, using fraudulent invoices to later transfer the money back to the drug traffickers they were working with. Tarrago even told them that she would be able to assist “with procuring large quantities of cocaine from Paraguay at an inexpensive price,” authorities said.
However, Tarrago and Va were dealing with undercover FBI agents — not drug traffickers. The agents had audio and video evidence of Tarrago and Va discussing the money laundering scheme from the numerous times they met in-person, authorities said.
The couple was arrested when they landed in Newark in November 2019 for business related to the scheme.
“As alleged in the complaint, Tarrago, while a former member of Paraguay’s legislature, brazenly offered to launder the proceeds of international drug trafficking, and even went so far as to offer to traffic in cocaine herself,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement at the time of their arrest. “When we stop this kind of money laundering activity, we help to stop the underlying drug trafficking activity that motivates and depends upon it.”
Authorities allege Paraguayan businessman Alvarenga Paredes coordinated the money laundering scheme. He has also been charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to commit money laundering, but remains at-large, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
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