HOUSTON, JULY 3 -- A former Bolivian consul general has been named in a federal indictment that alleges a money-laundering ring operating through Houston-area banks conspired to smuggle more than $5 million to Bolivia.
Some of the 14 defendants brought bundles of cash, once as much as $688,000, to Texas Independence Bank several times during a year, the indictment unsealed earlier this week alleged. Deposits of more than $10,000 in cash are supposed to be reported to federal regulators, under federal law.
Federal officials learned of the scheme when the president of Texas Independence reported that he had been offered bribes to help illegally funnel huge sums of money through the bank, according to Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Lenoir and Ken Magidson.
Deposits of less than $10,000, which are not required to be reported, also were made to other Houston-area banks, the indictment said. The money later was wired to other financial institutions and then sent to Bolivia or carried out of the United States in suitcases, the indictment said.
The indictment did not specify the source of the cash.
Four of the 14 people indicted were arrested Wednesday, while two already were in prison and the rest are believed to be fugitives in Bolivia or Brazil, authorities said. The defendants face maximum prison terms ranging from five years to 45 years if convicted.
One of the fugitives was Emundo Anez-Ruiz, described by prosecutors as the ringleader in Bolivia.
Authorities said former Bolivian Consul General Carlos Ballivian, who is serving a 3 1/2-year prison term on a 1986 money-laundering conviction, was the Houston connection in the scheme.
Also accused in the case were Ballivian's wife, Rosemarie Ballivian, and his sister, Ana Marie Ballivian de Oraa. Mrs. Ballivian was in custody while her sister-in-law was believed to be in Bolivia.
De Oraa last year was sentenced to five years in prison for trying to smuggle nearly $2 million out of the United States, but had been freed on bond pending appeal.