3 more convicted in massive drug and money laundering case with links to a Mexican cartel

CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Seven people linked to a massive drug trafficking and money laundering case linked to a Mexican cartel have now been convicted, court records show.

This week, three more of the 39 defendants pleaded guilty in federal court in Cincinnati.

>> Feds: At least $ 3.3 million in drug products laundered by 2 Cincinnati companies

The case, which stretches from Cincinnati, Wisconsin to Las Vegas, involves more than $ 3 million in drug money. Investigators said they seized 100 pounds of cocaine, 42 pounds of methamphetamine and 19 pounds of fentanyl.

Carl Rena Gilbert, 62, pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge on Tuesday. Court documents describe Gilbert, who has ties to Hamilton, as “a sub-distributor” of the drug trafficking organization.

He admitted to buying at least half a kilo of cocaine and distributing it to others.

On Wednesday there were two guilty pleas. Jose Toquillas-Felix admitted to maintaining a hideout in Elmwood Place. Court documents say 17 kilograms of cocaine were found inside the house in October 2019.

Brady Cunningham, 55, also pleaded guilty on Wednesday. He bought cocaine from a man who, according to investigators, supplied drug dealers and laundered money from drug sales by buying expensive vehicles.

Earlier this summer, two men and two women pleaded guilty to charges related to the case.

Four others have signed plea agreements but have yet to formally appear before a judge.

Investigators suspected a link between the anti-drug organization and the Sinaloa cartel. An official told The Enquirer in 2019 that an intercepted phone conversation showed members “bragging” about their connection to the cartel.

One of the 39 defendants is from Sinaloa, Mexico; two are residents of Las Vegas. The alleged head of the drug trafficking organization is from Wisconsin.

Two local companies, Tri-State Jewelers and a used car dealership, were used to launder drug money, officials said. Tri-State Jewelers, which was located downtown on Race Street, has since closed.

Between December 2018 and April 2019, court documents indicate that approximately $ 2.5 million was stored in the jewelry business. During approximately the same period, documents indicate that at least $ 800,000 was laundered by the dealer.

A man who owned Tri-State Jewelers and whose court documents indicate he was previously involved in the concession, Vyacheslav Minyalo, is among those charged. He and others, including executives of both companies, are accused of money laundering.

Minyalo, who resigned from the dealership after being indicted in November 2019, has pleaded not guilty.

The investigation became public in November 2019 after agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency raided jewelers in all three states.

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