(CMR) A former chief executive of a Miami armored-car company, who reportedly smuggled gold into the US, using Cayman as a diversion route, has pleaded guilty to helping smuggle $140 million in “dirty gold” illegally mined in South America into the United States.
Jesus Gabriel Rodriguez, Jr. (45), former head of Transvalue, which provided transport services for precious metals and other valuables, admitted playing a pivotal role in smuggling gold into the country in a way that evaded anti-money rules and export bans.
Rodriguez and his company helped turn Miami into a central hub for enterprise that smuggled billions in gold into the US from illegal mines all over South America, partly as a way to launder money for drug traffickers, Market Watch reported.
Illegal mining also often destroys wide swaths of rainforest, and chemicals used in the process tend to leave the land barren for years after.
Court documents revealed that Rodriguez conspired with employees at Texas-based NTR Metals, a large refiner of gold in the US, to obscure the origins of gold being brought in through Miami International Airport.
The scheme, which operated between 2015 and 2016, involved thousands of kilograms of gold being flown into the US from Curacao. As Curacao has no gold mines or processing facilities, gold coming from there is considered to be mostly smuggled in by boat from Venezuela.
In 2018 , then-President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting anyone in the US from dealing with gold procured from Venezuelan mines. NTR also banned the purchase of gold from Curacao due to the company's anti-money laundering policies.
To get around this, prosecutors said Rodriguez arranged for the gold brought in by couriers from Curacao to be then sent to the Cayman Islands before being brought back to the US.
Rodriguez then arranged for customs documents to say the gold originated in the Cayman Islands. It would then be transported to NTR refineries in Florida and elsewhere and sold to manufacturers of jewelry and other products that use gold.
Rodriguez agreed to forfeit $267,817 as part of his guilty plea. This amount represents the estimated increase in value to the business as a result of Rodriguez's conduct and almost all of his personal earnings from the scheme.
Rodriguez is scheduled for sentencing on April 4 before US District Judge Darrin P. Gayles in Miami. He faces up to 24 months in federal prison.