Aurora man charged with money laundering
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2012 5:20PM
Mug of Mario Alvarez Vargas, 48, 900 block of Sard Avenue, is charged with 27 felony counts of unlawful structuring of a currency transaction and 18 counts of felony money laundering.
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:05PM
An Aurora man is scheduled to be in court Wednesday on charges that he laundered more than $100,000 through local jewelry stores.
Mario Alvarez Vargas, 48, 900 block of Sard Avenue, is charged with 27 felony counts of unlawful structuring of a currency transaction and 18 counts of felony money laundering, according to Kane County court records. His attorney, Kathleen Colton, said Vargas will plead not guilty in Kane County Court on Wednesday.
According to records filed in the case, Vargas is accused of depositing more than $140,000 cash in various bank accounts across in Kane, DuPage, Kendall, Will and Sangamon counties. The money was put into two jewelry store bank accounts and then withdrawn elsewhere, to avoid paying taxes on the income, according to court records. In at least one instance, investigators intercepted $50,000 cash that had been hidden in an air compressor that was en route to Mexico, the records show.
Colton said Vargas was indicted by a state grand jury, and his case was assigned to Kane County, where Vargas lives. She declined further comment on the case, saying she has not yet received documents to review all the allegations.
Search warrants associated with the case reveal that investigators from the State Police, Department of Homeland Security and the North Central Narcotics Task Force have been investigating Vargas for more than a year. Investigators used surveillance and wire taps to track Vargas’ actions, court records show.
According to search warrants, investigators followed Vargas as he made several large cash deposits at different banks on the same day. For instance, the search warrant shows that on Aug. 16, 2011, Vargas went to an Aurora restaurant and left 10 minutes later carrying a white bag. At 1:10 p.m. that same day, he drove to a bank in Naperville, where he stayed for about seven minutes. He then went to an Aurora branch of the same bank and stayed for about 10 minutes, the warrant says.
As investigators followed Vargas that day, he went to money wiring service in a Walmart, a post office, two Aurora banks and a money wiring business in different areas of Aurora, the warrant says. At 5:39 p.m., he pulled up to an Aurora jewelry store, where he counted out money and handed it to a driver.
An additional search warrant filed in the case says a man may have been selling large quantities of cocaine from the Aurora jewelry store that Vargas visited. There were no Kane County records of the employee being charged, however.
Police did not return calls for comment on this story.
‘I handle money’
In September 2011, investigators again followed Vargas as he stopped at two Aurora banks and a Bartlett bank in less than four hours, the warrant says. He then stopped at Aurora and Hanover Park jewelry stores; investigators believe Vargas was picking up money or receiving instructions at the jewelry store, the warrant says.
Police were able to determine that Vargas made four cash deposits at four branches of the same bank on Oct. 5: $7,685 at 10:12 a.m. in Aurora; $7,932 at 11:14 a.m. in Aurora; $7,856 at 11:58 a.m. in Naperville; and $6,127 at 12:21 p.m. in Plainfield, the warrant alleges.
According to the warrant, in February 2012, police were listening in as Vargas tried to verify that certain deposits were received. Investigators said the man talking to Vargas said they were having problems in Mexico, where the money was headed.
“I don’t have any problem,” Vargas replied, according to court records. “I report everything. I handle money.”
In March, investigators intercepted an air compressor tank that Vargas had mailed from Oswego to Guerrero, Mexico. When agents inspected the air compressor, they found rolls of $5, $10 and $20 bills stuffed into the tank, the warrant says. In all, there was $50,000 stuffed in the air compressor.
Not long after the package was stopped, according to court records, Vargas deposited $32,000 in five separate stops at banks in Batavia, Warrenville, Aurora and Naperville. The warrant indicates he sent a text message with the amount of those deposits to an unknown person that same day.
All of these deposits were made into accounts for two alleged jewelry stores. However, investigators could find no records that indicated Vargas had been buying jewelry from those companies, the warrant says.