FRESNO, Calif. — Ashley Starling Thomas, 29, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced today to three and a half years in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill after being convicted by a jury in May 2016 of conspiring to launder money, conspiring to structure cash transactions, five counts of money laundering, and four counts of structuring cash transactions, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Thomas moved more than $200,000 in drug money through her bank accounts in a 22-day period in the summer of 2013. Thomas, who resided in Houston, Texas at the time, flew to Northern California on airline tickets paid for by a drug trafficking organization and made cash withdrawals of drug money from her bank accounts at dozens of bank branches in Sacramento, Eureka, and San Francisco. Thomas also traveled to Fresno where the drug trafficking organization was located. All of the cash withdrawals made by Thomas were in amounts less than $10,000 for the purpose of preventing her banks from filing Currency Transaction Reports on her cash withdrawals.
“Ashley Thomas participated in a drug conspiracy by funneling illegal drug proceeds through the financial banking system,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Cash deposits were made from Florida into Thomas’ personal bank account and she would then travel to California to make the cash withdrawals. The cash withdrawals represented profits earned by the drug organization. IRS-CI is committed to stopping funnel account activity and other methods of money laundering being used by drug trafficking organizations.”
Thomas was remanded into custody following her trial in May 2016 and was ordered to remain in custody to serve her sentence.
Co-defendants Chad Riffle, Peter Capodieci, Jeremy Murphy, and Aseel Al-Saber have been sentenced and are currently serving their prison terms. Co-defendants Miguel Gonzalez, Brandon Thomas, and Bree Ann Benson have pleaded guilty to conspiring to structure cash transactions and are awaiting sentencing.
This case was brought as part of Operation Footprint, a nationwide law enforcement initiative led by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Operation Footprint targets large drug trafficking organizations by identifying the transfer of drug proceeds through financial institutions, bulk cash smuggling and other forms of money transfers. Operation Footprint is focused on bringing criminal charges based on Bank Secrecy Act violations in addition to violations of the Controlled Substances Act and the Money Laundering Control Act.
This case was also the product of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the U.S. by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Vincente A. Tennerelli are prosecuting the case.