COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A man has admitted to organizing teams of drug dealers in central Ohio and laundering the proceeds to Mexico through local cellphone storefronts.

Cruz Alberto Perez-Nunez, 36, pleaded guilty on Friday to money laundering and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.

In the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, eight federal defendants were sentenced to prison for the same conspiracy, receiving sentences ranging from five to 18 years in prison. Perez-Nunez and the other defendants laundered $44 million in drug proceeds to Mexico, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker.

In 2018, Perez-Nunez oversaw a supply chain of heroin and directed individuals in drug-trafficking and money-laundering activities in and around Columbus. Perez-Nunez also set up living arrangements for the drug traffickers.

Perez-Nunez and the other defendants coordinated with the owners of Los Rosales on Shady Lane Road, Los Rosales 2 on East Main Street and Express Cellular on Eastland Square Drive to send bulk money transfers to lists of names in Mexico. The stores sold few, if any, phones and conducted little legitimate business, the news release said. 

The traffickers completed thousands of illicit wire transfers per year. The dealers dropped off money from drug sales at the stores, after which the store owners would falsify money sender names, addresses and phone numbers on the wire transfers to Mexico. 

The investigation and prosecution of the defendants removed approximately 34 kilograms of heroin, 516 grams of cocaine, 76 grams of fentanyl and 250 pounds of marijuana from the streets of central Ohio, the news release said.

Investigators also seized $458,500 and a home valued at nearly $248,000 as part of the investigation and prosecution of these cases.