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Georgian National And Son Charged With Laundering $500,000+ | Believed To Be Drug Cartel Proceeds

Defendant Yohanan Eligoola Also Attempted to Sell Surface-to-Air Missiles to People He Believed Were Acting on Behalf of the Cartel

Georgian National And Son Charged With Laundering $500,000+ | Believed To Be Drug Cartel Proceeds

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Spencer L. Evans, the Special Agent in Charge of the Las Vegas Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the arrest of YOHANAN ELIGOOLA and DAVID ELIGOOLA in connection with a conspiracy to launder money that the defendants believed to be narcotics proceeds.  The individuals who purported to be operatives of a narcotics cartel were in fact undercover law enforcement officers (the “Undercover Agents”), and YOHANAN ELIGOOLA also attempted to sell those individuals various weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.  YOHANAN ELIGOOLA was arrested on April 15, 2024, in New York, New York, and presented yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker in the Southern District of New York.  DAVID ELIGOOLA was arrested yesterday in Miami, Florida, and presented before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Florida.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Yohanan Eligoola worked with individuals he believed to be representing a drug cartel to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars and to sell them deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.  Unbeknownst to him, those cartel members were in fact undercover FBI agents.  Our law enforcement partners and the career prosecutors of this Office work relentlessly to disrupt dangerous criminal activity.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Spencer L. Evans said: “FBI Las Vegas would like to thank our partners at the SDNY U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI New York, and FBI Miami for their diligent work leading to these arrests.  We are committed to working collaboratively and utilizing our partnerships to combat organized crime groups to stem the illegal flow of weapons that endangers U.S. national security.”

As alleged in the Complaints:[1]

The Undercover Agents represented to YOHANAN ELIGOOLA that they worked for a drug cartel, and YOHANAN ELIGOOLA arranged to launder their narcotics proceeds.  Over the course of 2023, YOHANAN ELIGOOLA, DAVID ELIGOOLA — YOHANAN ELIGOOLA’s son — or their co-conspirators received large quantities of cash from the Undercover Agents on five separate occasions.  In total, they received more than $500,000 in cash, and returned all of it — minus their fee — back to the Undercover Agents in the form of laundered cryptocurrency and bank wires.

YOHANAN ELIGOOLA informed the Undercover Agents that he could launder up to $1 million in cash per day on behalf of the cartel and that “the bank will never ask you a question” when YOHANAN ELIGOOLA transferred the laundered funds back to them.

Before he had received any money from the Undercover Agents, YOHANAN ELIGOOLA asked one of them if the money was “from drugs.”  The Undercover Agents told him that it was and that they were “dealing with Colombians.”

YOHANAN ELIGOOLA also offered to sell the Undercover Agents various munitions and bragged that he controlled a large fraction of the defense industry in a particular country.  YOHANAN ELIGOOLA further claimed that he marked up munitions he sold by approximately 500% because they were “black market.”  The Undercover Agents informed YOHANAN ELIGOOLA that they “have issues with aircraft,” referred to “the fucking helicopters,” and asked for “stingers.”  Because the Undercover Agents represented that they worked for a drug cartel, the Undercover Agents meant that government helicopters had been interdicting the operations of the cartel, and the Undercover Agents wanted Stinger missiles — which are man-portable surface-to-air missile systems that are effective in shooting down helicopters — in order to shoot down those helicopters. 

YOHANAN ELIGOOLA asked the Undercover Agents to send him a list of the type of munitions they wanted to purchase and offered to let the Undercover Agents visit him in other countries to see the munitions firsthand.

The Undercover Agents subsequently requested a number of weapons, including rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons, suicide drones, and Stinger missiles.  YOHANAN ELIGOOLA responded that he could provide most of those weapons and listed the prices he would charge.  As to the Stinger missiles, YOHANAN ELIGOOLA offered FN-6 and FN-16 man-portable surface-to-air missile systems as alternatives.

On April 15, 2024, the Undercover Agents met with YOHANAN ELIGOOLA at a restaurant in New York, New York, in order to make a down payment on the surface-to-air missiles.  The Undercover Agents provided YOHANAN ELIGOOLA with $690,000 in cash as a down payment for approximately eight such missiles.  YOHANAN ELIGOOLA was then arrested by the FBI.

                                *

YOHANAN ELIGOOLA, 58, of the nation of Georgia, and DAVID ELIGOOLA, 34, of Hallandale Beach, Florida, are each charged with conspiracy to launder money, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Micah Fergenson and Kevin Mead are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaints and the description of the Complaints set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described therein should be treated as an allegation.

Contact

Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff, Shelby Wratchford(212) 637-2600

Updated April 17, 2024

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