Feds: Cartel money launderer charged in cocaine conspiracy

An alleged associate of a Mexican drug cartel has been charged in a conspiracy that distributed more than 100 kilograms of cocaine in the Philadelphia region, federal prosecutors said today.

Prosecutors say it was Jorge Bautista-Banda’s job to launder the illegal drug proceeds, depositing the money in $8,000 increments at Center City banks. By depositing amounts less than $10,000, prosecutors said Bautista could avoid having to file currency transaction reports.

Court papers describe Bautista’s activities on two separate days.

On Sept. 24, 2013, Bautista was picked up by the driver of a Mazda Tribute at 16th and Market streets. While in the car, Bautista retrieved a satchel from the back of the SUV. The driver, Jorge Martinez, dropped Bautista off at the nearby Sheraton Hotel, according to court documents.

Bautista then began his rounds. His first stop was the Bank of America at 18th and Market streets, he then walked to the Wells Fargo branch at 20th and Market streets, and proceeded to the Wells Fargo at 17th and Walnut streets. Later that day, he returned to the Bank of America branch to make a second deposit. In the course of three days, Bautista deposited $145,000 into the accounts of various individuals, prosecutors said.

On Apr. 23, 2014, Bautista flew from San Antonio, Texas to Philadelphia. Following his arrival in Center City, he was picked up at 12th and Walnut streets by a black Kia Crossover. During a short drive, Bautista retrieved a black bag stuffed with $100,000 from the back seat. He returned to Walnut Street and began to make deposits. He was taken into custody shortly after depositing $8,000 into a corporate account at the Bank of America at 9th and Walnut streets. In his backpack, there was a “large sum” of currency and handwritten notes documenting the locations of Philadelphia financial institutions. At his room at the Roadway Inn, investigators found $68,000 in a safe, according to the indictment.

Bautista, also known as “Cochito,” is charged with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, money laundering and aiding and abetting.  

Martinez was charged in November with multiple drug trafficking counts. Alfredo Almeida-Urias, who allegedly arranged for tractor-trailer drivers to deliver the cocaine to Martinez, also was charged in trafficking in November along with five other men. Those men were identified as Wallace "Primo" Oliveira, Luis "Big Head" Gonzalez, Juan Enrique "Dirty Old Man" Castro (also known as "Old Crazy Guy"), Sergio Rodriguez, Jr., and Juan Carlos Monroy.

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com. Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.